Where were you on Election Day?

I hope that you were voting and making your voice heard. Around the country, volunteers from SAALT and other organizations from the Asian American community were at poll sites, protecting the vote and learning more about the voting choices and barriers faced by Asians. It was my first time being an election monitor and I was assigned to a poll site in Silver Spring, MD (which is in the suburbs of Washington, DC). It was an amazing experience on a number of levels. First and foremost, it was very powerful to see so many people after they had exercised their right to vote. It was the culmination of a long, and sometimes emotional, election cycle and you could feel the excitement in the air.

I saw a lot of people with smiles on their faces. Another notable trend was families coming in to vote together in which the children were voting for the first time. As they filled out surveys, I could see the pride in the parents’ eyes. I moved to the United States when I was twelve years old. My family had previously lived in Saudi Arabia, which was an interesting experience all around, but there was a palpable difference when we came to America. This was a place where people settled, not just a place to pass through. It was not immediate, but America became home. And when I became a citizen in 2006, I was old enough to have really chosen become an “American”. I knew when I said that oath in the courthouse in Chicago that, in a fundamental way, my place in the world had shifted.

Even though I had the opportunity to vote in the 2006 midterm elections, I was beside myself with excitement about voting in my first presidential elections: to be making this huge, meaningful choice along with my fellow Americans (a decision that I knew from personal experience reverberated well beyond the US) was something I had looked forward to for a very long time. In my family there are American citizens, permanent residents, H1-B and student visa-holders and Bangladeshi citizens. I voted absentee in the District of Columbia, so it wasn’t the whole Election Day experience, but when I stood in my little voting booth, I felt my whole family there with me and I did my best to make sure my vote reflected that.

I don’t know if it is the same for other immigrants and children of immigrants, but the very act of voting felt like some small but vital portion of my parents’ dreams and my dreams becoming a reality. Being an election monitor and seeing people of all races and ethnicities, of different ages and socioeconomic statuses seemed a quiet and powerful affirmation of American democracy at work. On a very practical level, being there to help document any problems or issues with voting helped me contribute to a better understanding of Asian Americans as a voting population. This information not only helps us understand our community better, it informs policymakers and politicians about the issues that matter to us. I know that I will remember November 4th, 2008 for the rest of my life and I hope that the work that I and all the other election monitors can make a similar impact on our community’s future.

We’re going to put up some more posts about people’s experiences with election monitoring so keep a look out for them.

What Do I Need to Bring to the Polls? and Document the Vote!

It’s almost here! Election Day! After a rather long primary season, this election is coming to close in the most exciting way possible. Voter turnout is expected to be quite impressive and if early voting is any indication Americans around the country are excited (and commmitted, with early voting locations in some states having wait times in excess of SIX hours) about having their say this election. So for everyone getting ready to vote on Election Day, make sure that the ID requirements in your state don’t keep you from casting a ballot. Lookup your state’s ID requirement on www.866ourvote.org.

Also, while you’re waiting online, document the vote, take pictures or video of how voting looks in your community. If you have any interesting stories to share about first time voters or the excitement in your family or circle of friends about voting, we want to hear about it. Are you voting, getting out the vote, or monitoring at the polls on Election Day? Bring a camera or videocamera with you to document pictures and stories of South Asian voters. Send pictures, video, written reflections, quotes and more to saalt@saalt.org by Wednesday, November 5th at 5PM!

Here’s an interesting PSA I found that really underscores how meaningful the vote is, it may take a couple of hours (so I suggest bringing a book… and maybe a folding chair) but going out and voting remains significant long after Election Day.

Make sure your vote counts on November 4th!

This is a really great video that outlines how important it is to make sure that your vote counts on Election Day. There may not be enough voting machines, your name might not be in the voter rolls, you may get asked for ID you don’t have to vote. So its very important that you know what your rights are, it can be the difference between having your say on Election Day or not.



Moreover, by knowing what voters have a right to expect, you can make sure that those around you, voting at your polling place, voters from your community and more! Voters can confront a number of problems at the polls, from poll workers who are not knowledgeable about the rules to difficulties with language and English ballots to unfair treatment based on race or ethnicity. Remember:

-Check your state’s voter ID laws to make sure that you have the proper identification to vote
-If you or anyone you know needs help interpreting the ballot, it is your legal right to bring an interpreter into the booth with you
-If your name is missing from the rolls, you have a right to vote using a provisional ballot
     Want to learn more about your rights on Election Day, check out this SAALT resource

If you encounter or witness any barriers to the right to vote, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

 

 

South Asians in the 2008 elections

How have South Asians been getting involved in the 2008 elections? How have the ways that South Asians been involved in the civic and political process changed or evolved? What kind of voter turnout can we expect from the South Asian community on Election Day? What’s at stake for South Asians in this election?



Hear the answers to these questions and more in “South Asians in the 2008 elections,” SAALT’s pre-election webinar. We were joined by Vijay Prashad (Trinity College Professor of International Studies and the author of Karma of Brown Folk among other works), Karthick Ramakrishnan (one of the main collaborators in the National Asian American Survey), Seema Agnani (Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, a community development nonprofit based in Queens, New York), Ali Najmi (Co-founder of Desis Vote in New York) and Aparna Sharma and Tina Bhaga Yokota (Members of South Asian Progressive Action Collective in Chicago). The full video of the webinar is here<http://www.saalt.org/categories/South-Asians-in-the-2008-Elections-Online-Webinar-/>. Stay tuned for SAALT’s post-election webinar, during which guests will dissect the election results, report the findings of multilingual exit polling and look forward to the transition to the new Adminstration and Congress.

History Repeating Itself: Xenophobia in Political Discourse

With merely one week until Election Day, it seems like candidate stump speeches, pundit commentary, and the volley of talking points from all sides are everywhere you turn. And if you’re anything like me, you’re transfixed to cable news and media analysis about what’s been happening on the campaign trail.

Here at SAALT, we’ve been keeping a special eye on what’s being said in this highly-charged political atmosphere particularly as it relates to the South Asian community. In recent years, we’ve unfortunately witnessed a spate of xenophobic comments being made against our community within political discourse. Such rhetoric has emerged in various forms, including challenging the loyalty of those who are or perceived to be Muslim. Sadly, this hearkens back to the sentiments and actions that led to bias and discrimination against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Arab communities in the aftermath of 9/11 and raise concerns about the overall environment leading up to election. We encourage the community to remain vigilant about such rhetoric.

Be sure to check out SAALT’s three-part toolkit on xenophobia in political discourse, which includes comments made by political figures against the South Asian community, remarks made against South Asian candidates for political office, and tips on how community members can respond to such rhetoric, which have been featured by UC Davis Law Professor Bill O. Hing over at ImmigrationProfBlog.

Do you know your rights on Election Day?

Are you required to show your ID to vote?

What do you do if you need help translating the voting materials?

Want to know what the answers to these questions are? Then read “
Elections ’08: Know Your Rights on Election Day“! This new SAALT resource outlines what voters can expect at the polls like what poll workers allowed to ask for and what provisions protect your vote. Check it out along with all the other SAALT Elections ’08 resources at www.saalt.org/pages/Elections-2008.html

Second presidential debate tonight!

With four weeks left till Election Day, the presidential race is heating up! The second of three presidential debates is tonight at 9pm EST, so I hope everyone’s popped their popcorn, read up on their election coverage and generally made their debate preparations, because I think its going to be a good one. This debate is in the “townhall” style where questions are going to be asked either from a pool of undecided voters or by moderator, Tom Brokaw, from questions submitted via the internet. There are some pretty specific rules about the townhall (for instance, people who asked questions will be filmed asking the questions but not reacting) and there is also no follow-up questions or direct questioning between the candidates. Regardless, it promises to be an exciting viewing so I hope everyone tunes in! Check it out on any number of networks and cable stations at 9pm ESt/8pm CST/6pm PST.

If you want to read more, check out a post from the Chicago Sun-Times, here <http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/10/mccain_obama_deal_puts_limits.html>

What Do I Need to Bring to the Polls? and Document the Vote!

It’s almost here! Election Day! After a rather long primary season, this election is coming to close in the most exciting way possible. Voter turnout is expected to be quite impressive and if early voting is any indication Americans around the country are excited (and commmitted, with early voting locations in some states having wait times in excess of SIX hours) about having their say this election. So for everyone getting ready to vote on Election Day, make sure that the ID requirements in your state don’t keep you from casting a ballot. Lookup your state’s ID requirement on www.866ourvote.org.

Also, while you’re waiting online, document the vote, take pictures or video of how voting looks in your community. If you have any interesting stories to share about first time voters or the excitement in your family or circle of friends about voting, we want to hear about it. Are you voting, getting out the vote, or monitoring at the polls on Election Day? Bring a camera or videocamera with you to document pictures and stories of South Asian voters. Send pictures, video, written reflections, quotes and more to saalt@saalt.org by Wednesday, November 5th at 5PM!

Here’s an interesting PSA I found that really underscores how meaningful the vote is, it may take a couple of hours (so I suggest bringing a book… and maybe a folding chair) but going out and voting remains significant long after Election Day.

http://www.youtube.com/v/o4kg514DcTA&hl=en&fs=1

Voter registration deadlines are coming up so GET REGISTERED!

Civic and political participation are core values here at SAALT. While its important to be engaged on a consistent basis, not just during election cycles, no one can deny that the act of voting is one of the most meaningful expressions of democratic participation. There’s been a lot of talk about this election, and there’s nothing wrong with getting swept up in the excitement of the presidential race.

If you need any additional convincing, check out this video:

The Vice Presidential debate is tonight!

So the first (and only) Vice Presidential debate is taking place tonight. There’s been a lot of chatter, in the blogosphere, the mainstream media and, undoubtedly, in more than a few personal conversations, about the importance of this debate. Considering that this is the only time we will be able to see Sen. Joseph Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin face off, I am hoping that people tune in. The debate will be moderated by Gwen Ifill, who moderates Washington Week and is a senior correspondent on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Ifill also moderated the 2004 debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004. I think its going to be an exciting two hours and I hope everyone tunes into all the major channels at 9pm EST.