A collaboration of 13 local Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy and service agencies held the 2015 Third Annual AAPI Candidates and Issues Forum on October 1, 2015 with attendees proudly wearing large yellow buttons saying “For my community, I Vote. Asian American and Pacific Islander.”
The large hall was packed with over 150 plus AAPI people including five large tables of limited English speaking voters where the debates were translated into Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. Korean and Samoan were on stand-by as needed. The AAPI community is under-registered with 276,488 US citizens and only 54% are registered to vote. Kudos to ACRS, APACE, ICHS, InterIm CDA and SCIDpda for the voter registration, education and the get the vote out civic engagement efforts.
Featured debates included Seattle I-122 regarding public funding of elections, the King County Records and Elections Director and four Seattle Council District races 2, 3, 8, and 9 as moderated by skilled KIRO Channel 7 reporter Natasha Chen.
Although there are other important initiatives such as Seattle Transportation and King County pre-kindergarten education, the collaboration chose Seattle I-122 for debate to educate the audience about the pros and cons of public funding of Seattle elections. Similarly, the King County Elections Director candidates were featured to hear how the candidates would make the voting process more accessible to our AAPI communities, such as translating Voter Registration Forms, Ballots, and Voters’ Pamphlets in more languages, setting policies to get all voters registered, and increasing the number of ballot drop boxes to make voting easier.
In the Seattle Council races, starting this year, rather than electing all Seattle council members citywide, Seattle is divided into 7 geographical districts with one representative from each district and two all-city (at-large) council positions representing the whole city. This change was made to reduce the cost of mounting a campaign so more people can run.
More people did run—47 candidates ran in the primary for the 9 seats and the top two vote getters are now running for the general election this November 3. Ironically, the shift from citywide to district elections also prompted concerns of potential provincialism—the “I’ll support only in my backyard” mentality. The collaboration highlighted districts where numerous AAPIs reside—District 2, which includes Chinatown International District, Beacon Hill and Rainier areas, and District 3, which includes Capital Hill, Central District areas and Position 8 and Position 9, which are at-large council representatives.
A straw vote of Initiative 122, King County Records and Elections, and the four city council races was taken and one third of the audience voted akin to this primaries voter turnout.
The API Forum’s mission is to “provide an educational forum for API civic engagement where issues and electoral candidates are treated fairly and provided with equal time to respond to questions on issues that are important to API communities.”
Collaboration co-sponsors include Asian Counseling and Referral Services, Asian Pacific American Civic Engagement Votes, Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition King County Chapter, Chinese American Civic Advocates Seattle Chapter, Filipino American Political Action Group Of Washington, International Community Health Services, InterIm CDA and WILD, Greater Seattle Japanese American Citizens League, Washington State and India Trade Relations Action Committee, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, the Northwest Asian Weekly, and the International Examiner.
Election Day is November 3. Ballots will be mailed to you the week of Oct 12. Fill in your ballot carefully, put a stamp on it and mail or drop it into a Ballot Drop Box in Downtown Seattle, Ballard and New Holly. On November 3 only, you can drop off your ballot in vans at Magnuson Park, Rainier Valley, University of Washington and West Seattle by 8:00 p.m.
Slideshow (Photos by Keoke Silvano ©)