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How Democrats Do Diversity: Using Voters' Language to Get Out the Vote

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This election, more than ever before, is comprised of many voices: Many communities, many ethnicities, and many languages, all coming together to form a more-perfect union. As a democracy, America's electoral system depends on myriad voices being heard; it must be a priority to connect with those different voices in as many ways as possible.

In the 113th Congress, California's newly-redistricted 17th Congressional District will be the first majority-minority district in the continental United States, with 51.55 percent of the total population made up of Asian-Americans, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and 17.46 percent made up of Latinos.

With such an ethnically diverse district comes a diversity of languages, and I am incredibly proud of the multilingual outreach my campaign has done. By Election Day, we will have connected with thousands of voters, with voter-to-voter contact in over a dozen languages, including English, Arabic, Cantonese, Dari, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Hindi, Pashto, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Telugu, Thai, Urdu and Vietnamese.

Using the home languages of voters to communicate with them demonstrates an understanding of their communities' distinctness and provides voters with greater comfort in expressing their concerns and beliefs. We can't treat the Asian-American/Pacific Islander population, or any other community, like a monolithic group; there is a great deal of linguistic, ethnic, and religious diversity represented in a multitude of sub-groups.

All linguistic minorities deserve to be approached and heard in their home languages whenever possible, because the conversation that results is fuller and richer and you tend to hear things that otherwise might not be said in English. My campaign has capitalized on the multilingualism of our outstanding volunteers. Their talents allow us to engage individual voters in a way both the volunteers and voters appreciate.

The languages are as diverse as the people who speak them, and to effectively represent the district as a whole, it is important to understand and respect these distinctions. The great commonality among them, however, is the pride they take in being an American and participating in our electorate system. With this in mind, we strive to hear all voices, as that is the nature and beauty of our democracy.

As America is becoming more diverse, Americans are increasingly relying on more diverse communication. According to a report by the Center for American Progress, nearly 30 million ethnic adults say they're "primary consumers" of ethnic media.

This is clearly the future of campaigning as well, with outreach to every voter, in their language, their culture and their context. In the next presidential race, then, I expect to see a multiplicity of languages employed. This is the new America and we must be ready to see it, hear it and speak it.

Rep. Mike Honda, vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, represents Silicon Valley and serves on the House Budget and Appropriations Committees.