A recent survey from Asian Texans for Justice showed that the Asian American community in Texas is not only rapidly growing, but eager to get involved in elections. Despite this, the community is all too often ignored by political groups and progressive organizations alike, leaving many Asian Americans out of the political process. As the Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project’s Voting Rights Program and a Pakistani American, I believe that the progressive movement needs to do more to not only help increase Asian American participation in the democratic process, but allow that community to shape the progressive movement itself to holistically respond to issues Asian American groups care about—such as, to name a few, fighting against U.S. imperialism, islamophobia, and anti-Asian hate.
The progressive movement’s failure to approach these and other issues meaningfully has only compounded the political isolation many Asian Americans face. It is no surprise that many Asian Americans feel like they don’t have a voice in this country and that their votes don’t matter.
This status quo needs to change. Asian votes do matter and can help create a more equitable society. The progressive movement has a moral obligation to empower and has a lot to gain from empowering members of the Asian American community. It’s time for progressive organizations to recognize their long-missed opportunity and engage this historically marginalized community in the fight for a government that is more representative of its people.
While the term Asian American is a broad umbrella category composed of many ethnic groups, such as Chinese Americans and South Asian Americans, data shows that these various groups generally share many progressive policy priorities. In 2020, Asian Americans made up 4.7% of the electorate, almost doubling the percentage from 20 years earlier of 2.5%, according to data from the Pew Research Center. In Texas, between the 2016 and 2020 General Elections, the turnout among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters rose by an entire 100% (Forbes). Asian Americans are increasingly contributing their voice and political impact, and by organizing more in these communities, progressive organizations can help continue this trend.
Vote suppressors in Texas have noticed this and have targeted Asian American communities. Last year, we saw how Asian American communities were a major targetof unfair redistricting tactics by the Texas legislature. The resulting maps split apart these communities to water down their political influence. Also, the Texas Civil Rights Project is currently representing OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates in litigation challenging numerous bad provisions enacted into law by SB1 during Texas’s previous legislative session, many of which disenfranchise minority communities and further alienate groups such as Asian American voters.
The Texas Civil Rights Project will continue to fight for the Asian American community this midterm election. We are a part of the Election Protection coalition, which has a dedicated voter hotline specifically for members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, 888-API-VOTE. This hotline has speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali ready to aid voters to cast a ballot that counts.
I urge progressive advocates to share this resource widely, and to organize more alongside Asian American communities and advocacy groups like Asian Texans for Justice and OCA, so that Asian Americans are better equipped to contribute their much-needed and growing voice to our political discourse.
Hani Mirza is the Voting Rights Program Director at the Texas Civil Rights Project.