A voter (left) carries her ballot while being assisted by interpreter Tuesday in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

America’s fastest-growing ethnic group flexed its voting muscle early this general election.

Turnout among Asian Americans approximately doubled in battleground states, including Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

Georgia saw ballots from the ethnic group triple in number.

So what could explain this uptick? According to Stephanie Cho, head of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian American immigrant populations are rapidly increasing in the South especially. And Cho’s organization spent a lot of time registering Asian American/Pacific Islander voters from this demographic in the Peach State.

“This year, immigrants are going to make the difference in Georgia,” Cho said.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia’s second-largest county, Asian/Pacific Islanders make up 11 percent of the population. Cho says that despite Gwinnett having the most diverse population in the state, access to voting has been a huge problem.


AAAJ is part of a coalition that sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in September alleging that he illegally blocked voters from registering ahead of today’s general election. Cho says that many Asian American voters were unfairly bumped because their names didn’t match state or federal records. Georgia denied 34,874 applicants from 2013 to 2016 because their information didn’t match.

“You have a newer immigrant population (in Georgia),” Cho said, which means these residents are even less familiar with our complicated voting processes – many are voting for the first time.

Zooming out, Asian Americans make up about 4 percent of the country’s eligible voters. And while they’re the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., they have among the lowest turnout, according to the Huffington Post:

“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 percent of whites, according to the U.S. Census.”

The language barrier may be one reason why the Asian American vote can be harder to poll. Behind Latinos, Asian Americans have one of the highest rates of limited English proficiency, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The term “Asian American” encompasses a wide number of disparate cultures and languages, which makes the language barrier that much harder to navigate logistically.

Reporter Stan Alcorn and Senior Editor for Data Jennifer LaFleur contributed to this story.

Julia B. Chan can be reached at jchan@cironline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @juliachanb.

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Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.