Why Can’t Grandma Vote?

Asian old ladies

Image Credit: fechi fajardo via Flickr

Next Tuesday, September 25 is National Voter Registrtaion Day. I know, YOU are registered to vote, but what about your parents, grandparents, younger cousins, aunties and uncles? Election season is a great opportunity to educate our kids about how democracy works, but it’s also a good time to talk to older relatives or those who have recently become citizens. I’ve written about voting a lot this fall, but registering our family is more important than ever this election cycle. There are 18 million Asians in America, yet we have the lowest rate of voter registration — with only 55% of us registered. That is not just an Asian F, that’s flat out failing. In other words, we are total underachievers when it comes to voting.

Besides being an extremely close race, new voter ID laws could have some special impacts for Asian Americans, particularly if they are newly naturalized citizens or have limited English skills. That means those voters face a chance of being urned away at the polls. It could be someone you know. Maybe your grandmother. And of the questions your kids may have about the elections, you don’t want one them to be “Why can’t grandma vote?”

The Asian American Justice Center is joining a coalition of civil rights and faith groups in working to make sure everyone has the information they need to make sure their vote counts.According to Mee Moua, Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Council, “Twenty percent of Asian Americans lack a government ID, compared with 8% of whites.”


Things You Might Not Know About Asian Americans and Voting:
  • Anyone with an Asian name knows they often get mangled in documents. On a recent story on NPR’s Tell Me More, one caller talked about how her hyphenated Korean name is often misspelled, or the two parts of her first name get scrambled up.
  • 3/4 of Asian voters don’t speak English as a first language.
  • Student IDs do not count as valid forms of identification in many states with new Voter ID laws.


For more information, visit 18 Million Rising, a broad coalition to promote Asian Pacific Islander American civic engagement.

So register to vote and tell your family and friends to do so, too. You can even sign up online by clicking on the red white and blue Register to Vote logo on the right side of this page. Of course, you don’t have to be Asian American to vote, but I thought I’d take this chance to remind our extended family as Asian political issues do not get that much coverage in the mainstream media. And in case you to see how not voting could impact people like you, check out this hilarious video “Does Your Asian Mom Vote?!” from The Fung Bros.


    • says

      Yes, it’s surprising. If you’re around mostly educated Asians who have been in the US for some time, you might get the impression that most Asians are politically knowledgeable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. If everyone spreads the word to a few people around them — aunts and uncles, hairdresser, people who work at restaurants you frequent — that would get the word out!

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