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Community Supports AAPI Civic Participation

Diane Narasaki, executive director of ACRS, speaks at AAPI Democracy Initiative kickoff event on Monday. Photo by Shihou Sasaki/ The North American Post

Local community leaders launched a statewide grassroots campaign “AAPI Democracy Initiative” to boost civic engagement between Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Led by Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) in partnership with the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC), the multi-year campaign will aim to raise voting rates and civic participation of AAPIs, who are the fastest growing racial group in Washington.

The kickoff event was held on Monday at the ACRS headquarters.

“Today we come together to support full participation in our democracy,” said Martha Choe, former Gates Foundation chief administrative officer and a co-chair of the campaign fundraising along with Former Governor Gary Locke.

“As governor, I saw thousands of AAPI immigrants and refugees come to Olympia to talk to legislators and give voice to what is important to them,” Locke said. “It was a powerful sight to see. And the Legislature listened.”

The AAPIs have historically been facing low rate of participation in votes. According to the statistics, only half of all eligible AAPIs registered to vote, and then only half of those registered actually voted in 2014. The AAPIs seem not to participate due to a language barrier, mistrust in government and other issues.

Diane Narasaki, executive director of ACRS, explained that non-profit agencies have been instrumental in overcoming the barriers and building the culture of civic participation in the community.

The AAPI Democracy Initiative will support voter registration and outreach in 20 different languages and also develop local leaders who serve as resources in their own communities.

“We can only achieve our vision of healthy and thriving communities by helping giving voice to the issues we care most about,” ACRS Board President Vinod Nazareth said. “That’s what our democracy is about.”