To The Ballot Box

I’ve made a slight disappearance from the blogosphere to do some very cool things in the reality-sphere. Here in Los Angeles, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center just launched Asian Americans at the Ballot Box, a report on the voting behavior of the Asian American community.

APALC conducted the study using data from exit polls in the 2004 general election, as well as from the registrars’ offices in Los Angeles and Orange counties, to draw its conclusions. The study found that, in Los Angeles County, 71 percent of registered Asian voters actually went to the polls, compared with 78 percent of registered voters in general. In Orange County, 68 percent of registered Asian voters cast ballots, while 73 percent of all registered voters did. [link]

“Asian American communities are growing dramatically and we’re seeing that growth at the polls,” said Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of APALC. “Increasingly, candidates will have to speak to our issues if they expect to get elected.” [link]

The report is fantastic, if I do say so myself. It doesn’t just look at the general Asian American statistics, it breaks down the results to compare ethnic disparities within the Asian American community. Even more spectacular (and SM relevant) is page 27 of the report, which covers the Asian Indian vote from Los Angeles and Orange county.

Demographics of Indian American Voters 2004 General Election in [LA County]

  • 66% Foreign- Born
  • 13% 18 to 24
  • 47% Female, 53% Male
  • 51% Democrat, 20% Republican, 26% Decline to State
  • 77% Supported Kerry, 23% Supported Bush
  • 12% are Limited English Proficiency, 88% not. [report]

Additionally, we see that Asian Indian youth have a turnout rate of 62%; in other words 62% of Asian Indians who registered to vote went to the polls in 2004. This rate is just slightly higher than the county Asian American youth turnout rate of 57%. A more extensive analysis on the Asian American youth vote will be released in a few weeks on this website in a supplemental report.

A quick thumb through of the Ballot Box report also reveals the following for Asian Indians of Los Angeles County…

12,616 Asian Indians voter, representing 5% of Asian American voters. [p.9]

74% turnout rate for Asian Indians, compared to 78% of all voters in LA County. [p10]

Only 21% voting by absentee, the least likely of Asian American ethnic groups to vote by absentee. [p15]


p>The following questions are probably going through your head: isn’t it a little late for 2004? If it’s LA County, how does it apply to the rest of the country? Don’t we already have a national report?


p>As mentioned before, Southern California has a large percentage of desis living here and though we can’t extrapolate that desis nationwide have similar voting behavior, the hope is that other communities can create reports accordingly for their own counties. The South Asian national vote report which came out last year is great, but focusing our efforts on county-wide numbers gives us the ability to not just look at exit polls, but also pull data from voter files and do a more precise name analysis. Eventually we can use these numbers and figures to create the desi political power that we’ve talked about before. Finally, the release of the report was coordinated to sync up with the upcoming 2006 mid-term elections, a time out here in Southern California when the Asian American community is alive with voter activity.

I know that I keep inundating Sepia Mutiny with various facts and data relating to the South Asian American community, but there’s a reason for this. It’s important. Not only does knowledge help us understand ourselves, but it helps organizers like myself strategically create political power for this community. Take a look at the report and decide for yourself. I know that for the work that I do, both the report and supplemental report will make it a lot easier for me to prove to others that South Asian Americans are finally a community to reckon with. Let’s keep it up — don’t forget to register to vote and turnout this November!

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates and blogs at Follow her at

8 thoughts on “To The Ballot Box

  1. I know California is a generally left-leaning state, largely Dem, but those numbers surprised me. Were there additional age-related stats apart from the “13% 18 to 24″? I don’t see it anywhere else in the report. I know that’s the group that SAAVY focuses on, but I’m very interested in understanding the voting patterns of 1st gen. vs. 2nd gen voters.

    I’m also very surprised at the high turnout rates. They seem very comparable regardless of whether a voter is foreign-born or native-born.

    Good stuff, Taz. I think the SM community knows how much and how long you’ve labored over this thing. Kudos! I’ve saved a copy of it myself so I can totally become one of those obnoxious people who can quote figures and percentages whike pontificating in a bar. “Oh yeah? Well, actually, 42% of the Indian-descended voters carried curvy-handled umbrellas while chewing sugar-free gum. Ha!”

  2. I can totally become one of those obnoxious people who can quote figures and percentages whike pontificating in a bar.

    Salil, please let us know the stats of how “successful” you are with these figures…

    Taz – thanks for posting this!

  3. I know that I keep inundating Sepia Mutiny with various facts and data relating to the South Asian American community, but there’s a reason for this.

    keep it coming brown!

  4. The statistics and all are great, but my real question is whether or not you cats out on the left coast will get your it together enough to make sure we don’t have the Terminator running the 5th largest economy in the world.

  5. Sriram,

    I think it’s safe to say that the gunernatorial elections in Cali can be chalked to Schwarzenegger. Angelides is short on funds for the all crucial 8 weeks before elections for ad cycles, and the Governator has cloaked himself with a host of progressive leaning legislations that he’s signed into law, including photo ops with Hollywood luminaries for California’s divestiture from Sudan. And not to forget the major debacle at the Angelides camp with leaking Arnold’s private, but controversial conversations calling a Latina politican as having “that hot blood” to the press. Hey, at least I’m one of those who people who can say that my diploma was signed by none other than Ahnuld. Sigh….I hate this.