Who is worthy of the right to vote?

We demand voter justice now 

60 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “Give Us the Ballot” speech, we are still in the struggle for our voices to be heard at the ballot box. To address this nonpartisan issue, the National Commission for Voter Justice launched last week at the behest of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and countless other voting rights advocates.  

APIAVote commits to register and mobilize as many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters for the 2018 midterm elections through our partnership with community groups, colleges and universities in at least 26 states.

AAPIs have fought for centuries to freely participate in social and economic life in the United States. They removed barrier after barrier and put their lives on the line to challenge unconstitutional laws so we could benefit from their victories. Minoru Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu challenged the government’s egregious decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War 2. Wong Kim Ark made the case for birthright citizenship.

Gerrymandering: when politicians pick their voters

Yet again politicians are debating who is considered American and who is worthy of the right to vote. In a process called gerrymandering, politicians are assaulting our freedom to vote with surgical precision. Our democracy weakens when lawmakers can pick their voters by creating unfair maps through the redistricting process.

There are now three gerrymandering cases the Supreme Court picked up from Texas, Wisconsin and Maryland that will be decided this year, which will impact whether we have an equal voice in elections for decades. Meanwhile in North Carolina, a congressional map was struck down for the first time by a federal court, ruling the map as an unconstitutional gerrymander. But voting rights advocates are disappointed that the Supreme Court blocked the order for a map to be redrawn by the 2018 midterms.

Executive Director John C. Yang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC spoke at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court, arguing that Ohioans should not be purged from voter lists on Jan. 10.

Supreme Court hears Ohio voter purge case

We should also pay close attention to voter purging. On Jan. 10, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute. Ohio’s process to take names off the voter rolls on the basis of infrequent voting is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Voters who were purged from the list would show up at the polls for an election and found out then that they could not cast their ballot. Where are the purges happening? The top three counties (Hamilton, Franklin, and Cuyahoga) where AAPIs live in Ohio are also the counties with a particular voter purging problem.

With multiple voting rights cases at stake in the Supreme Court, we must also bring our collective power to the polls. We still need to remove barriers for AAPI voices to be fully heard.

Apply for U.S. citizenship now to vote in 2018

Every year Americans apply for U.S. citizenship; this status gives them the right to vote. For AAPI immigrants and refugees, the path to citizenship feels like a painful operation and costs like one too. It can take years to become naturalized, and some give up on the lengthy process altogether. The delay in granting citizenship to Americans denies them the right to vote with every passing second.

Eligible AAPIs should become naturalized now if they want to vote in 2018. Why does voting matter? The saying goes: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Lawmakers are making decisions without us if we don’t vote. Can you identify any policies that harm you or people you know? Some of them threaten our very existence. Democracy affords us the sacred right to vote for people who work to improve our everyday lives.

Self-preservation can only take us so far. We can pay our taxes, hold a job, dot our i’s and cross our t’s, but none of those actions will safeguard our freedoms enumerated in the Constitution. Voting and receiving fair representation in Congress gives us a fighting chance.

Any attempt to integrate into American life is futile if eligible AAPI citizens do not vote. Our way of life can be taken away at a moment’s notice. We not only vote for ourselves but also for the people we care about who face barriers to the vote. We don’t need to be policy experts or follow every breaking news alert to know what is best for all Americans.

We must join forces together in this centuries-old struggle to ensure that all eligible Americans can use their freedom to vote. Make no mistake — an attack on our right to vote is an attack on our right to exist in this country. When our electoral voice is taken away, politicians can ignore our concerns and think our lives are disposable because there is no incentive to hear us out.

Voting is a serious responsibility; we count on all Americans to fulfill this duty in every election, including this November 6th.

Have you moved recently? Update your voter registration. If you are not registered to vote, visit apiavote.org/register now.

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