Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month – Power and Influence in Future Elections

By Ray Hom

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month – Power and Influence in Future Elections

My focus this year to highlight AAPI Heritage Month is to share the potential power and influence the AAPI community has in future elections, including the midterm elections in November.

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) electorate is a formidable community with the power to shape and influence elections down the ticket throughout the country. Though the AAPI electorate is projected to double from 5.9 million eligible voters in 2015 to 12.2 million eligible voters in 2040, the strength of AAPI voters in many states today has been and continues to make their voices heard and influence the political process. This is no different than in the state of Ohio and in our local and state elections.

In the last three presidential cycles, approximately 620,000 new AAPI voters entered the electorate, with eligible AAPI voters in various states making up more than 5% of the state’s electorate, including Nevada, Virginia, and California. It is increasingly clear that candidates and elected officials must understand our growing political power and address issues important to our communities.

 Fastest Growing Population

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remain the fastest growing populations in the United States, at a rate of 46% and 40%, respectively, between the years 2000 and 2010. This stands in comparison to a 10% population growth rate nationally. AAPI population growth partially stems from growing numbers of Asian immigrants, with more immigrants coming from Asia since 2008 than any other part of the world.

While the largest AAPI populations continue to be in states like New York, California, and Hawaii, states that have seen the fastest-growing populations of AAPIs in recent years include Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina. Nevada has seen a 140% increase in the AAPI population since 2000, 123% in Arizona, and a 115% increase in North Carolina.

Today, roughly one in four Congressional Districts has more than 5% AAPI residents, and AAPIs exceed 5% of the population in nearly 600 cities and municipalities.

Representation Matters

The decisions made by policymakers and our representatives at all levels of government impact our day-to-day lives. However, if AAPIs aren’t at the table or in positions where they can influence policy decisions, our needs and voices are often ignored or forgotten.

There has been tremendous growth in AAPI representation throughout government. There are now over 600 AAPI elected officials throughout government at all levels, according to the National Asian Pacific American Political Almanac (15th ed.). This includes positions in all branches of government, from legislative to judicial, local to federal. In the 2016 elections, there is an unprecedented number of AAPIs running for office across the country, including two AAPI women running for the U.S. Senate, and various new candidates for the House of Representatives.

AAPI voters are important because our voices in the political and policy discourse must reflect our priorities and needs—which may also be accomplished by electing more AAPIs to office.

Impactful Economic Strength

The growth of AAPI influence and power extends beyond the political sphere into all aspects of American society. For example, AAPIs are integral to the success of the American economy—Census data shows that the AAPI community contributes nearly $1.1 trillion to the economy every year, and AAPI-owned businesses employ 3.6 million Americans across the country.

AAPIs as business owners, consumers, and active members of America’s economy have an important role in shaping the future of our collective communities. The decisions made by today’s leaders must reflect the growing needs and roles of AAPIs in American society, beginning with appreciating the power of our votes.

APIAVote has been through many changes and grown significantly since its humble beginnings as part of OCA-PIA. For over 30 years, APIAVote has invested in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to build power through civic participation. Consequently, APIAVote helped them come out and vote in historic numbers in 2020 and 2021 which injected our voices into the national dialogue like never before. However, to harness the fullest potential of our collective power, there is so much work left to be done.

Now is the time to recommit to their vision where all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are engaged and empowered because our safety and security are under growing threat. Access to civic education in the languages that suit their needs ensures ALL Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are guaranteed their freedom to vote so we have access to good resources amidst an influx of disinformation and more.

A refreshed logo and new website reflect APIAVote’s commitment to meet the moment and growing needs of our communities. APIAVote is embracing its role as the nation’s leading nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to engaging, educating, and empowering AAPI communities to strengthen their voices and create impact. They are stepping up and expanding their size, reach, and power as an organization and are excited to have you be a part of it.

Much work is needed to establish the habit of voting in the millions of voters who came out in 2020 and again in 2021, especially during the upcoming midterm election in November.