Campaign Season Reveals the Burdens of Asian-American Voters

A full one-third of Asian-Americans in a recent poll indicated that they still have no impression of Republican Mitt Romney as a candidate--but it appears that it's not for a lack of trying.

Just 17 percent of all Asian-Americans say they've been contacted by the GOP in the past two years; 23 percent say that the Democratic Party has attempted to contact them.

That number drops even further for declared independents: Less than one-fifth say they've been contacted by either party, said Celinda Lake of Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners, which conducted the poll in partnership with the Asian American Justice Center and APIAVote.

Asian-American voters prefer President Obama over Romney by almost 4-to-1, according to an earlier report, but it might not be over for Romney in this demographic.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they were certain to vote, and more than half indicated they are more enthusiastic about this year's election than previous elections, although for many 2012 affords them their first chance to cast a vote for the presidency.

In fact, Asian-American participation in the elections is on the rise: 48 percent came out in 2008, a 4 percent increase from 2004. A large portion voted because they felt it was their civic duty or because they liked the candidate, Lake noted in a conference call announcing the results.

"Once we are engaged, we actually do turn out to vote," Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center, said on the call.

She added that she feels the Asian-American Pacific Islander community will vote for candidates who engage them but added that a lack of outreach could stifle the turnout.

When asked why they didn't vote last year, nearly one-fifth of respondents showed some indication it was because there was a lacking of understanding, a language barrier or that they didn't connect enough with the candidates.

More than a third of the respondents, who were all registered Asian-American voters, said it was because they weren't eligible before. Attempts across the country to restrict voter eligibility could stand to raise that number even more in the next election cycle.

Since 2011, 176 restrictive bills have been introduced in 41 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, a nonpartisan policy group working to challenge the bills. In 17 states, 22 laws and two executive actions have been passed.

The laws include ending same-day voter registration, limiting early voting, and enacting voter identification requirements--all efforts that largely affect the young, old, and minorities, writes Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center, in a guest column for The New York Times.

Racial and ethnic barriers have long prevented the AAPI community from voting, said Christina Chen, acting executive director for APIAVote in the conference call. The onslaught of restrictive voting laws is "just another barrier" to deter people from going to the polls.

Based on the results, the AAPI community appears to vote because they are moved by the issues or candidates, Chen said. But being largely ignored by candidates and dealing with the reality of restrictive voting bills could be a further unnecessary burden on this voter demographic, she warns.