NORTH CAROLINA — Asian-American voters are a growing voice in North Carolina. While not huge in numbers, it’s a block that may be large enough to change the outcome of some races.
“In my experience as first-generation Chinese-American, I think it’s pretty common to keep from being politically engaged or to have a lot of political conversations at home,” says Fayetteville native Nina Lin, who recently turned 18.
Away at college, she’ll be voting for the first time by mail, and she won’t be the only one in her family.
“This year I got my mom to register to vote, so we’ll be voting together for the first time so that’ll be awesome,” says Lin, a freshman at Yale.
Since 2012 the number of Asian-Americans eligible to vote in North Carolina grew 55 percent, more than six times the statewide growth rate, according to the nonprofit Asian and Pacific Islander American vote.
But in the last presidential race, only about 57 percent of Asian-American voters turned out compared to 69 percent statewide.
“I think sometimes when people talk about Asian-Americans as not as engaged, they don’t care about these things, I think that’s not necessarily true,” says Phian Tran, the voting engagement director for North Carolina Asian Americans Together. “Thinking about the context of Asian-American folks coming over and immigrating here, there are so many things to worry about.”
North Carolina Asian Americans Together is a civic engagement group that provides resources, language services, voter education, and more.
For a democracy to function best, Tran says your civic duty can’t stop at the ballot box.
“We cant just vote and say ‘my job is done, I’ve fixed the world.’ I don’t believe voting is the thing that’ll change and fix everything, but it’s a great step,” Tran says.
Though Asian-Americans make up just 3.5 percent of the state’s electorate, NCAAT says greater participation could’ve swayed some congressional races in 2016.