Asian Americans helped deliver McAuliffe victory in VA in Election 2013, despite reports of voting rights violations at polls

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Yesterday marked a critical election day for the nation, despite being an off-year election with only a handful of “headline-worthy” races. Nonetheless, Election Day 2013 took place in the wake of a two-week shutdown of the federal government that most voters blamed on the Tea Party. It also occurred amid controversy regarding the troubled online launch of Healthcare.gov, the Obama administration’s cornerstone website for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare).

Many pundits have viewed (or spun) last night’s election as a referendum on both the Tea Party and Obamacare. In that light, it is interesting to assess how the American voter responded, in general, on the night’s key races. More importantly (at least to readers of this blog), many of the night’s key races occurred in cities and states — New York City, New Jersey and Virginia — with relatively high populations of Asian American voters, and where Asian American voters helped propel President Obama to his 2012 re-election.

Thus, last night’s election results not only speak to the general attitude of all voters, but can also be used to assess the attitudes of the Asian American voter within the larger political landscape of the American voter. And, looking at the results, we see some pretty interesting trends.

In general, the nation’s voters responded (perhaps not surprisingly) as expected — voters voted largely in favour of New Jersey’s incumbent governor, Chris Christie, perceived (accurately or not) as a moderate Republican willing to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats. His 20-point victory over his virtually unknown Democratic challenger was seen as a clear message to the Tea Party wing of the Republican party that voters are tired of radical Rightwing divisiveness in Washington.

Incumbent governor Chris Christie celebrates his landslide re-election last night with his wife.
Incumbent governor Chris Christie celebrates his landslide re-election last night with his wife.

On the flip side, however, conservative Democrat Terry McAuliffe eked a mere 3-point victory (48-45, with a margin of only 55,000 votes) over arch-conservative opponent and current Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for the position of Virginia’s governorship. While a decisive victory under ordinary circumstances, polls conducted as late as last week showed McAuliffe with as much as a 12-point lead over his opponent, and conservatives have cited the narrow victory as evidence of “buyer’s remorse” from voters on Obamacare.

All that being said, McAuliffe probably still considered yesterday a good day.
All that being said, McAuliffe probably still considered yesterday a good day.

In New York City, democratic candidate for New York City mayorship Bill de Blasio sailed to an easy (and much-predicted) victory.

Bill de Blasio hugs his family during his victory speech last night.
Bill de Blasio hugs his family during his victory speech last night.

Polling data broken down by race is largely unavailable at the moment for Election Night 2013, but early reports show some surprising trends among Asian American voters. In Virginia, where I reported in 2012 registered Asian American voters could potentially number as high as 258,000, where in 2012 Asian American voters represented 3% of the state’s actual voter turnout, and where overall voter turnout for a gubernatorial race was at a historical high last night, Asian American voters overwhelmingly supported McAuliffe over his Republican opponent.

Latino Decisions released the results of a small poll they conducted in conjunction with America’s Voice and the People for the American Way which was conducted November 1-4 and included both Latino and Asian American voters who had either voted early or were committed to voting on November 5th. This poll showed that 2/3rds of Asian Americans and Latinos voted in favour of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, and if Asian Americans again represented 3% of the state’s voters, could easily have made all the difference in the 3-point victory McAuliffe managed over Cuccinelli last night.

63% of Asian American voters reported that they were supporting McAuliffe in Virginia
63% of Asian American voters reported that they were supporting McAuliffe in Virginia.

These results are perhaps not surprising considering that Asian American voters are generally supportive of Obamacare, according to data generated through the comprehensive (and generally awesome) recent National Asian American Survey, that polled the political attitudes of Asian Americans.

NAAS reports that Asian American and Pacific Islanders are generally favourable of the Affordable Care Act.
NAAS reports that Asian American and Pacific Islanders are generally favourable of the Affordable Care Act.

On the other hand, the Virginia results are somewhat unexpected since despite national exit polling from 2012 that show Asian American voters in that election identified predominantly as Democratic, surveyed Asian voters in Virginia reported being more evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents, indicating that McAuliffe were able to win over Asian voters that don’t explicitly identify as Democratic.

I graphed these data reported by the AV/PFAW/LD poll.
I graphed these data reported by the AV/PFAW/LD poll, showing a relatively even split in party affiliation among surveyed Asian voters.

Support for McAuliffe, a politico with close ties to former president Bill Clinton, last night is also interesting in light of the fact that only 31% of Asian American voters supported Bill Clinton nationally during his presidential run in 1992 (as noted by Latino Decisions).

In New Jersey, where Asian Americans represent nearly 9% of the population, and in New York City, where Asian Americans, are 12.7% of the population, Asian American voters likely also contributed to the decisive victories of Chris Christie (R) and Bill de Blasio (D) over their opponents, although turnout numbers broken down by race are still unavailable at the moment.

Asian American voters turnout yesterday is particularly significant considering a press release published late yesterday by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF), which organized volunteers to monitor polls in multiple states yesterday. In their release, AALDEF cites numerous reports from voters and volunteers of poll center irregularities and outright violations that specifically disenfranchised Asian American voters. Most notably, AALDEF describes widespread shortages of Asian language interpreters and improper requests for voter identification at multiple polling sites in Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

It remains to be seen what the full impact of these voting violations were on Asian American voters yesterday, but one thing is for certain: Asian American voters are engaged in the political process in this country, and our voters will be ignored only at the peril of this country’s major political parties.

An infographic from the National Journal.
An infographic from the National Journal shows growing voter participation in elections by Asian American voters, and shifting party affiliation.

If you are aware of additional coverage of Asian American voters in Election 2013 (@Reappropriate), please let me know and I will update this post!

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