AAPI early voting soars across U.S. in midterm election

A get out the vote event for Asian American Pacific Islander voters who support Stacey Abrams took place in Decatur, Georgia, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Rhythmic drumming echoed through Patel Plaza’s parking lot in Decatur as canvassers caught shoppers leaving the market. A group of Asian American Pacific Islander volunteers gathered Tuesday morning to make sure people knew they could vote.

And Asian American community organizers across metro Atlanta are seeing the results of their voter engagement efforts. They’re joining a cohort of national organizers who have seen an increase in early voting turnout in Asian American communities. 

Stella Kim talked to people as they walked through the plaza. She’s worked on AAPI voter engagement for years.

“I’m out here because there’s a lot at stake for the midterms for a lot of people I care about and also people I don’t know — all the communities,” she said. “Top of mind for me is voting rights, because without voting rights, we can’t vote for all the other communities.”

Nationwide, research from the Asian Pacific Islander Vote project shows AAPI voters prefer to vote by mail. In Georgia, this year’s rules for absentee voting changed after Republican lawmakers reduced the amount of time and the number of locations voters can use absentee ballots.  

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reports nearly one-fifth of AAPI voters sent in an absentee ballot or voted before election day. Nationwide, the Democratic political data service TargetSmart shows national early voting across demographics has increased 6% since 2018. Early voting in the AAPI community, however, has increased 24%.

Kim says the AAPI community has kept the momentum from the 2020 Senate runoff. 

In that race, a significant portion of voters from Gwinnett County — the county with the most Asian Americans in the state — helped elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the Senate.