In The US Election Swing States Matter. Here’s How Asian Voters Are Influencing The Contest
Election 2020’s monumental nature is apparent in swing states across the United States. As demographics, public opinions, and civic engagement trends continue to shift in these hyper-polarized times, so do political realities. My home state, North Carolina, was recognized early on as an Election 2020 swing state. As it has historically maintained a complex identity between advancement, progress and southern traditions, this election cycle has highlighted a unique move towards a more inclusive North Carolina. Just earlier this year, in the city of Asheville, a historic vote agreed to pay financial restitution to African American residents. In this vein, Asheville and North Carolina serve as national models for change.
Throughout this election cycle, a number of down-ballot races have also included Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates running on issues like education, healthcare, social justice, and financial inclusion. Duke professor Ronnie Chatterjee, running for the state wide office of State Treasurer, incumbent NC Senator Muhammad Mujtaba, and Florence Allbaugh, running for Henderson County School Board, among others, represent minority voices as they carve the path for inclusion within a historically White and conservative state.
Within the last 20 years, North Carolina has seen an increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander voter bases, especially in areas of Research Triangle Park and Charlotte. Particularly in the case of the South Asian community, an estimated 500,000 Indian-American voters reside in battleground states, based on data from 2018. With razor-thin margins in battleground states, voter mobilization within the South Asian community could have the greatest impact in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
Although political participation within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community isn’t new, it is more aggressively visible in this election. Traditionally, this group is misidentified as lacking political leanings and being unlikely to vote. Due to these factors, among others, both Republican and Democratic parties do not prioritize outreach and mobilization efforts within these communities. However, we have noticed the trend shifting as we witness a rise in first and second generation Americans within the United States. According to Advocacy Groups such as the North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT), this election cycle has witnessed mobilization along political identities and subgroups such as NC Chinese-Americans for Biden and NC Pakistani-Americans for Biden. Social media campaigns have actively recruited Asian American and Pacific Islander volunteers, and community members have successfully engaged in GOTV efforts.
Traditional gatekeeping and party leadership in states like North Carolina have been criticized along the lines of “good ole boy networks.” However, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have also secured positions in parties within this state. Notably, Naila Allam secured the ranks within the NC State Democratic party as a third vice chair. There has also been an increase in political billboards across the state reflecting support for both parties, including those commissioned by Chinese-Americans for Trump 2020 and NC Chinese-Americans for Biden. These visible changes and trends are important in understanding a shift in North Carolina’s political landscape at large, as well as the role North Carolina plays as a toss-up state with races like the congressional NC District 11 race (current White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ vacant seat), which could flip a traditionally conservative region.
Regardless of this election’s outcome, we must note that political participation and engagement is shifting and will continue to change and challenge traditional Southern political gatekeeping.