Key battleground states have seen a hike in early voting from Asian-Americans.
Florida, Arizona, Virginia and North Carolina saw about twice as many early ballots from Asian-Americans this year compared to 2012, according to Catalist, a Democratic analytics firm. In Georgia, that number was almost triple.
“It’s possible in several of these states, the Asian-American population could mean the difference between victory or defeat,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, the founder of AAPI Data, a research group that focuses on Asian-American and Pacific Islander demographics and policy, told The Huffington Post. “When it comes to battleground states, it becomes a battle of yards and inches.”
The factors contributing to a jump in turnout likely include greater voter registration efforts from Asian-American advocacy groups, as well as a growing Asian-American population, said Ramakrishnan, who’s also a professor and associate dean at the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside.
On a local level, advocacy groups including Asian Americans Advancing Justice deployed volunteers in key places like Atlanta to host voter drives and increase registration. AAAJ members also offered to help people with limited English proficiency through the voting process.
Ramakrishnan also pointed to more outreach from candidates.
Clinton’s AAPI platform includes a push for more comprehensive immigration reform, an issue many Asian-Americans have said is critical to them.
Trump, who announced the formation of his Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee in September, pledged to meet with the members of that group and with other AAPI organizations to discuss topics including education and employment.
In total, Asian-Americans make up about 4 percent of the overall eligible voting population. They are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., but they have the smallest voter turnout. Forty-seven percent of eligible Asian-Americans showed up to vote in 2012, compared to 48 percent of Hispanics, 66 percent of blacks and 62 precent of whites, according to the U.S. Census.
Barriers to the Asian vote include limited English proficiency, a lack of experience with the U.S. voting system and a perception that the population is too disparate.
“Campaigns can be reluctant to reach out to Asian-Americans because they think the community is too diverse,” Ramakrishnan said.
But he noted that’s changing rapidly, citing a quote from U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) ― who said in July that Asian-Americans have “gone from being marginalized to becoming the margin of victory.”
Kimberly Yam contributed to this article.