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Asian American Democrats of Texas

A macro view of the Asian-American vote in 2018

Good article.

Sri Kulkarni

Minority voter engagement in Texas is often viewed as an effort to get Hispanic and African Americans to the polls. But Asian Americans are now the fastest growing minority group in the country—accounting for an estimated 5 percent of Texans, according to U.S. Census data—and several observers believe they could have an impact on the November 6 election. That could have positive implications for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, since most Asian Americans vote Democrat.

Both the Texas Asian Republican Assembly and the Asian American Democrats of Texas said O’Rourke spent more time with the Asian American community than other candidates now and historically. Nabila Mansoor, the president of the AADT, said the Democratic Party has really made an effort to get the Asian community to vote through outreach programs.

“We’re going to see I think a huge turnout rate,” Mansoor said. “If you look at it, there are areas of Texas where we could really make a huge difference.”

The term “Asian American” refers to someone with East, South, or Southeast Asian heritage, and the term is often paired with “Pacific Islander.” The group is massively diverse, which makes it difficult to pinpoint how the group will vote or even which issues are most important. After a while in the country, even on issues like immigration, racial and ethnic groups made up of immigrants might take an unexpected stance. There are an estimated 1.3 million Asian Americans in Texas, according to the 2017 report by the American Community Survey, and 625,112 of them are eligible to vote, according to Census data from 2015. The group’s growth rate of 2.7 percent nationally since 2012 is higher than Hispanics’ rate of 2.1 percent. Nationally, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voter turnout has been historically low, with only 49 percent of eligible Asian Americans voting in 2016, according to Census data. That’s dismal compared to the 65.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 59.6 percent for non-Hispanic blacks, but about on par with the reported Hispanic voter turnout of 47.6 percent.

Both Mansoor and Democratic state representative Gene Wu of Houston, one of the few Asian Americans in the Texas Legislature, said this is due to both the culture of the country that many AAPI people immigrated from and the feeling that candidates don’t pay much attention to their community.

“Immigrants have a tendency not to vote, not to engage,” Wu said. “People came from places where there was no voting, or voting didn’t matter. Those are high hurdles to overcome.”

That’s something O’Rourke’s campaign has fought against, and the extra attention may mean higher turnout from the community. Forty-eight percent of AAPI voters are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in this year’s midterm elections, according to a survey conducted by UC Berkeley–based data organization AAPIData released in early October. Issues like immigration, health care, and gun control poll very highly nationally in Asian American communities, and there is much more support for the Democratic positions on those issues. The question is whether that enthusiasm will translate into votes.

Read the rest. As the story notes, Asian-Americans had been a fairly Republican demographic until recently; in 2016, they were even more Democratic than Hispanic voters were. It’s important to keep in mind that “Asian-American” covers a wide variety of ethnicities and nationalities, so a strategy for engaging and turning them out is more complex than you might think. As we’ve discussed before, that’s one of the cornerstones of Sri Kulkarni’s candidacy in CD22, and as it happens the same day this story hit my feed reader, I also came across these two others on the same subject. I will say that as much as I’m rooting for Kulkarni to win, he doesn’t need to win to demonstrate the value of his approach. If he succeeds in drawing out new voters and increasing Democratic turnout as a result, that’s quite a victory by itself.

Dems versus Vasquez

Looks like we’re not ready to make nice with the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over their handling of voter registration last year.

Any honeymoon between Democrats and the new Harris County voter registrar ended suddenly today.

Democratic state Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez of Houston said Leo Vasquez, who is tax assessor-collector and voter registration chief, is responsible for staffers who allegedly misled state legislators considering whether to require voters to offer more proof of identification before casting ballots.

“It is up to (Vasquez) to clean up his office,” Coleman and Hernandez said in a news media handout. “Otherwise, Leo needs to go.”

[…]

Vasquez, saying he is running the registration agency without regard to politics and will not join the GOP frontlines, since has expanded voter registration efforts and hired a Democrat to help with community outreach.

He said today that testimony in Austin last week on the “voter ID” bill by voter registration staffers George Hammerlein and Ed Johnson was no partisan move. The pair, called to testify by Republican lawmakers, took no position on the bill and provided facts as requested, Vasquez said.

Coleman and Hernandez never have taken their concerns to him, Vasquez said, and they owe his staffers an apology for making baseless allegations.

The Democrats today zeroed in on Hammerlein’s legislative testimony, several hours into hearing that ran past midnight, that thousands of Harris County residents who registered to vote on time were not eligible to participate in early voting two weeks later because they applied relatively late.

Hammerlein acknowledged today that his statement was wrong and said it was due to the strange hour rather than any attempt to mislead the Legislature.

I’ve reprinted the press release beneath the fold, and a copy of the doc that spelled out the allegations against Hammerlein and Johnson is here. I’ve been hearing some grumbling about the way things have been run at the Tax Assessor’s office, in particular complaints about being told that deputy registrars could not deliver new registration forms to annex offices. That turned out to be a case of miscommunication between the head office and the annexes. Perhaps that’s to be expected with a change in command, but it wasn’t a good first impression and it didn’t help alleviate any of the lingering mistrust left over from the Bettencourt days. It’s not surprising, given the stakes in the voter ID fight, that Vasquez isn’t being cut any slack. Stace has more.

Meanwhile, immigration attorney and former Houston City Council member Gordon Quan has an op-ed about voter ID and the Betty Brown incident.

While some will argue that this increases the integrity of the ballot, in reality, voter ID requirements have been overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise older Americans, individuals with disabilities, low income and homeless people, students, married women, minorities and most poignantly, those who, for cultural reasons, may have differing names on differing identification documents. According to the nation’s largest exit poll of Asian Americans, nearly 70 percent of Asian voters were asked for ID at the polls — in states where no ID was required!

Voter ID requirements put an inordinate amount of discretion in the hands of already overworked poll workers. Our state and county election offices already find themselves constantly struggling to find the resources to adequately train poll workers and to recruit diverse poll workers who are versed in every possible cultural circumstance that they may encounter. This legislation would take precious funds away from those programs as well as from real priorities such as transportation and education. As evidenced by this episode with Brown and the Elections Committee, even individuals as well versed in the law as they are were unable to understand the complexities associated with Asian names as they relate to voting. Just imagine the difficulty a poll worker would have and how they could easily not allow an eligible voter even with a valid voter registration card to vote.

If you want to discuss this issue in more detail, there will be a conference call Thursday night with Ramey Ko, US Rep. Mike Honda, State Rep. Hubert Vo, Mini Timmaraju of the Asian American Democrats of Texas, and others. The AAA Fund blog has the details. You can submit a question for Ramey Ko ahead of time, but you must RSVP to join the call, so click over for the info if you’re interested.

UPDATE: Vince has more on Hammerlein’s testimony.

Rep. Brown’s apology

In case you missed it, here’s State Rep. Betty Brown’s apology for her dumb remarks about Asian names.

Answering a swarm of phone calls during a brief break on the House floor, Rep. Betty Brown , R-Terrell, kept telling reporters she was misunderstood.

“I never meant they should change their names,” said Rep. Brown.

[…]

[Ramey] Ko confirmed that Brown’s office called him after the Texas Democratic Party cried foul. Brown said she had called Ko to apologize.

“We’re ready to work with any of these people who are having problems and have them educate us on anything that might be going on that we’re unaware of,” said Brown.

There’s video at that link as well. One way that Rep. Brown could make good on that promise and show that her apology was sincere would be to get behind HB1457 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, which is currently pending in the Elections Committee on which Rep. Brown sits. The bill states, in part:

SECTION 1. Chapter 11, Election Code is amended by adding Section 11.0005 to read as follows: Sec. 11.0005. GENERAL POLICY REGARDING ELIGIBILITY. It is the policy of this state that no qualified citizen shall be denied the right to vote due to governmental clerical errors or due to technical defects on an applicant’s voter registration application as long as the information on the application demonstrates that the citizen is qualified to vote.

In other words, just because some clerk somewhere got confused about how someone’s name is spelled, or over the fact that some people are legitimately known by more than one name, doesn’t mean someone who is eligible to vote cannot vote. That would go a long way, I think. Heck, just imagine how many people here in Harris County would have benefited from having this in place last year. What do you say, Betty?

Anyway. There’s not much point at this time in trying to round up more links about this, since you pretty much can’t read a blog today and not stumble across some reference to the story. I will point out the Asian American Action Fund blog, which has a couple of statements, the former from the Asian-American Democrats of Texas and the latter from New York City Council Member John Liu, that are worth reading. Maybe, just maybe, this incident will make a few people realize what the opposition to voter ID has been about, and we can keep something bad from happening when the House takes up the matter. I’m going to hope so, anyway.

UPDATE: OK, here is one more link worth your time, from MOMocrats.

UPDATE: One more statement, from the gressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: More reactions to Brown from around the country.

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