OCA urges civic engagement

Member of OCA Asian Pacific Americans get ready for their national convention, Aug. 2-5 at Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – The 2012 elections will be foremost on their minds when delegates to the OCA Asian Pacific Americans convention gather in Las Vegas next month.

With the pivotal national election just months away, Asian-Americans, recently acknowledged as the fastest growing minority in the United States, meet at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, Aug. 2-5.

The theme of this year’s convention is “GOTV2– Get Out To Vegas, Get Out The Vote!”

“It will not only focus on efforts to ensure that voices of APAs are amplified through electoral participation,” said OCA executive director Tom Hayashi, “but it is an opportunity for us to engage more deeply on a number of pivotal issues for our communities, such as immigration reform, economic development, education at all levels, access to quality health care, and advocacy against violence.

Since 1990, Nevada has experienced one of the most rapid population surges of any state. Between 2000 and 2010 the Asian Pacific American population has expanded by 116 percent,  making up approximately 8 percent of the population–that is over 3 percent greater than the national figure.

Hayashi said the three-day event will feature workshops, youth and college programs, tracks designed for small business and professional leadership development, and many notable speakers and guests.

He said President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been invited to address the delegates, but are likely to send only their campaign surrogates.

“We don’t intend to endorse anybody,” Hayashi said. “That is not what we do as a non-profit. But I would like to see more civic engagement by our constituents, to amplify their voices in the ballot box.”

A recent poll by APIA Vote, an overwhelming majority of Asian Americans surveyed – nearly five out of six – said they will vote this November and half of them are more enthusiastic than ever to vote.

The survey of more than 1,100 Asian American and Pacific Islander voters across the country was conducted last month by the Asian American Justice Center and the Asian American Institute, members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, and APIAVote.

It was intended to bring attention to this crucial, but often overlooked, voting bloc.  The poll results suggest that Asian American voters should not be ignored by any candidates, political parties, and organizations.

“Taking these voters for granted in the short-run will have a big impact in the long-run because they’re on a fast rise and they’re very loyal,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. “They’re looking for leaders who will stand up for them and address their issues.”

Writing for the Sun Vegas Sun, Jon Ralston, said in what is expected to be a close presidential election – and even on the local level – the Asian-American vote can not be ignored.

Every demographic will be seen as crucial, and pandered to, Ralston wrote.

“There is nothing more flattering for a demographic group than to be paid attention to and pandered to by candidates,” he wrote. “So the big news out of all this for the Forgotten Minority: forgotten no more.”

And that’s the way, the community likes it, said Hayashi, the OCA executive director.

“We have to do it all,” he said. “We need to get out the vote, stand up when there are negative remarks. Get involved in politics. Be leaders in our respective professions.”

*The workshops and community resource lounge are free and open to the public. A full listing of all events is online, and you may also register to become a member of OCA and receive special discounts.

Tickets for all meals and special events, including the Gala Awards, are available for purchase on the Web site at www.ocanational.org.

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