Voter registration now in high gear

Filipino-Americans Rozita Lee (left), Erin Jarri Malonzo Pangilinan and Gloria Caoile, lead voter-registration drive at Seafood City in Las Vegas.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – With the 2012 elections just weeks away, voter-registration has shifted into high gear in the Asian Pacific American community across the country.

In Las Vegas, registration has been going on almost everyday in various places of the city, but the nerve-center, at least for Filipino-Americans, is the Seafood City on Maryland Parkway.

“We’re doing it again this weekend,” said Gloria Caoile, Las Vegas chapter president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). “We have to increase the number of voters so we gain a voice in the political process.”

Caoile’s group has set a target of at least 3,000 new voters for Las Vegas, in which Filipino-Americans, numbering about 30,000, is the largest Asian group in the city.

But while APALA is leading the voter-registration drive, other Asian-American groups are also involved, as the community, the fastest-growing ethnic group, according to the 2010 Census, wants to play a key role in deciding the November presidential election.

Asian-Americans have doubled in population in several swing states, including Nevada, and are expected to provide the difference in a close election, which the November 6 vote is expected to be.

The Asian & Pacific Islander AmericanVote, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit spearheading a non-partisan voter-registration drive, said about 3.8 million APIAs are eligible voters.

Through its Norm Mineta Leadership Training program, the group is holding a day-long training Saturday, Aug. 18, in Houston. Tex.

In the event at 9800 Town Park, scheduled 9 .m. to 5 p.m., participants will learn “innovative communication skills, base building, and the rules around election protection so that we can magnify our voice.”

The training is free, and participants from across the country are expected to attend, including some from Las Vegas.

Caoile, the APALA Las Vegas head, said that the voter-registration drive is not to simply register voters but to get the community engaged.

“Most are leery and indifferent, and don’t understand why we need to participate in the political process,” she said. “Our young people particularly, are not getting engaged.”

As with most immigrants, Asian-Americans would rather tend to their own needs and take care of their own business rather than be involved in something that is often looked as unsavory in their own countries, Caoile said.

Politics as a dirty business have often hindered Asian-Americans from participating in the political process, community leaders said.

Other Asian-American organizations involved in the registration drive are the National Association of Filipino American Federations (NaFAA), Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF),  and Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE).

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegspinoy60, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BertEljera and at http://examiner.com/asianamerican-politics-in-las-vegas/bert-eljera

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