NEW YORK – Of the nearly 3.8 million Filipinos in the US, close to 3.2 million are US citizens, according to the 2014 US census estimate.
Community leaders say, based on the latest census, roughly 76% or about 2.8 million Filipino-Americans are potential voters in the 2016 US presidential elections.
But only about half of these eligible Fil-Ams have registered to vote.
“We have the number on paper but we need to translate that into actual voting, that’s why the primary objective we need to educate our base to just go out and before you can even vote, you need to register,” said Harley Barrales of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations’ (NaFFAA) The Fil-Am Vote.
Stephanie Chrispin of Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Inc. (UniPro) added, “So if you go out and register to vote, you are not speaking just for yourself and your community, but you are speaking for Asian Americans at large, if you don’t vote you don’t have a voice.”
The Fil-Am Vote is part the larger Asian-American electorate which was about 3.9 million in the 2012 presidential elections.
While Latinos are the most talked about voter demographic, Asian-Americans are actually the fastest growing.
Asian-Americans, including Filipino-Americans, helped re-elect President Barack Obama in 2012.
In a 2012 exit poll study made by the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund or AALDEF, 77% of Asian-Americans voted for Obama while 21% for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
While 65% of Fil-Ams who cast their ballots voted for Obama, 32% for Romney
Both Democratic and Republican parties are realizing the potential and are courting the Asian-American vote.
In May 2014, the Republican National Committee (RNC) appointed Ninio Fetalvo as press secretary for Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Media.
Last week, the Clinton campaign named Jason Benjamin Tengco their AAPI Outreach Director for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Both are Filipino-Americans.
“That means that they’re starting to care, starting to notice us, we should build off of that momentum and exercise our right and privilege to vote,” said Iris Zalun, Voting Rights Organizer for Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
Registered voter Blase Ferraris said, “Voting matters to me because it gives me a chance to actually make the changes that I wanted to see. It gives me opportunity to make my voice matter.”
“We are shaping what the country is going to look like, and so in a lot of states, the Asian American vote and the Filipino vote specifically is a swing vote, we determine who gets elected.” Said Chrispin.
But because of the low 30% turnout in past elections, the relevance of the Asian-American vote, as well as the Filipino-American vote, have often been ignored.
Organizers of this register and vote campaign said if there is a large enough Fil-Am voter turnout in November, only then can both political parties see the increasingly important Fil-Am vote.
They added that it can only happen if Fil-Ams make themselves heard at the polls come Election Day.
Read more on Balitang America.