The Asian American Power Network, a progressive advocacy group, has launched a $10 million effort to turn out Asian American voters in seven key battleground states ahead of the midterms.
The funds are meant to help mobilize AAPI voters who speak different languages in Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Pennsylvania. With more support for door knocks and phone calls, progressives hope to spur an increasingly powerful bloc to the ballot box while Republicans attempt to do the same.
The effort comes ahead of a number of tight races that will determine the balance of power in Washington come November and amid record increases in voter turnout in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in recent years. Between 2000 and 2019, the growth rate of Asian Americans in the U.S. was higher than that of any other race or ethnicity, at 81%, a 2021 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. census data showed.
In the 2020 presidential election, the number of Asian Americans who voted in five battleground states was larger than the presidential margin of victory, according to the nonpartisan group Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, or APIAVote.
The Asian American electorate has been higher on the radar of political campaigns since 2018, Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of demographic data and policy research at the nonprofit group AAPI Data, told NBC Asian America. That midterm election cycle saw an increase in competitive congressional districts with significant Asian populations, he said.
“I think what these investments speak to is the growing competitiveness of many suburban districts,” he said. “Asian Americans are part of that.”
Nadia Belkin, executive director of the Asian American Power Network, said the investment will support the group’s longer-term efforts to encourage “nontransactional engagement” with AAPI voters by, for example, communicating with them in their native languages in hopes of boosting turnout in the midterm elections, which historically have lower turnout than presidential elections.
In North Carolina, the group hopes to reach voters in 18 languages. In Pennsylvania, voter outreach will be done in 15 languages.
“Our community does face some interesting and unique barriers to the political process,” Belkin said. “We need to address and meet the moment.”
In a survey of more than 1,600 registered Asian American voters conducted this year by APIAVote, more than half of respondents said they planned to vote in the midterms. But less than half said they had been contacted by at least one of the two major political parties.
Just over 40% of Asian American voters who spoke a language other than English at home said they would use voting assistance if it was available in their own language, the survey showed.
The survey showed that the three most important issues to Asian American voters were health care, the economy and crime.
“Issues around the economy — in particular inflation, job security, access to health care — all of those issues are issues that our community is very concerned about,” Belkin said.
The Republican National Committee set up a new minority outreach center in Issaquah, Washington, in late August in an effort to reach Asian American voters amid a congressional race where their turnout could play a key role. The center is one of five across the country, three of which are located in Georgia, California and Texas that will have been operating for more than a year by Election Day, according to a spokesperson for the RNC.
Registered Asian American voters say they are more likely to vote for Democratic House and Senate candidates, according to the APIAVote survey, with Indian Americans most likely to vote for Democrats and Vietnamese Americans leaning toward Republican candidates in House elections.
Ramakrishnan said the combination of redistricting and Roe v. Wade’s reversal is adding to campaigns’ uncertainty about voter behavior in November, so Asian American voters could play a key role. Seventy-four percent of Asians in the U.S. support abortion access, Pew reported.
“It could be a game of inches and not yards,” he said.