How Data, Language Accessibility, & Consistent Engagement Turn Out the Vote

Groundswell Fund
4 min readMay 12, 2021

Asian Americans are frequently ignored or overlooked by political campaigns or groups conducting voter mobilization. In fact, half of Asian Americans polled by APIAVote in 2020 reported that they had never been contacted by either major party around voter mobilization. Groundswell’s long-time Catalyst Fund and Integrated Voter Engagement program grantee, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is working to change that.

The only national organization focused on building the power of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls, NAPAWF utilizes an intersectional Reproductive Justice framework to directly impact policy and drive systemic change in the U.S.

Currently, in their 25th year, NAPAWF has chapters mobilizing and building power in 11 cities — including Atlanta where they played a critical role in recent elections — to create social, political, and economic change. The organization and its members also show up in solidarity with other women of color who are experiencing injustice, oppression, and marginalization.

Voter mobilization, like direct phone calls and door-to-door work, often relies on state-maintained databases. As NAPAWF poured through the outdated Georgia database, they often heard from voters that it was their first time ever being contacted. Focused on identifying and building long-term, politically activated leaders, NAPAWF was able to reach voters across 107 counties in Georgia, focusing in particular on Cobb, Gwinnett, Clarke, and Fulton Counties in addition to DeKalb. They made as many calls to AAPI women voters in the two months before the Georgia Senate runoffs as they did in the eleven months leading to the 2020 general election — demonstrating again that NAPAWF knows how to connect with community and get out the vote.

Yet those calls were no small task. There is an incredibly diverse language pool within the Asian/Asian American community. From November 2020 to January 5th, 2021, NAPAWF canvassers spent over 800 hours reaching out to voters in AAPI communities in 18 different languages. They expanded their outreach efforts from DeKalb County, GA, where they primarily focused on the November election. 121 volunteers from 10 states, as well as Washington, DC, and Thailand, joined the efforts to call voters. Volunteers put in a whopping 240 phone banking shifts. Yet phone banking in 18 different languages wasn’t their only method of outreach. NAPAWF engaged youth and adults through targeted text banking, as well as a multilingual postcard campaign sent to voters in their respective languages.

“I had a conversation in Mandarin with someone who didn’t speak any English and wasn’t sure if she could vote. We were able to verify that she was registered and where her early voting location was. She said that she was glad to have spoken because she felt like it was less common for Chinese people and that she’s excited about her vote and dreams about the future.” — Amy, Georgia Canvasser

NAPAWF’s commitment to diverse language capacity paid off. Members of the AAPI community who spoke to a NAPAWF canvasser turned out to vote at a rate of 50% higher than AAPI voters statewide, and they had a turnout rate of 63% higher than other groups doing similar work. In fact, a record number of AAPI women voted in the 2020 election thanks to the work of NAPAWF and other grassroots organizations like Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).

[15% more AAPI women voted in this election than in the 2016 election. 1 in 6 women voters were first-time voters. ]

The key results in NAPAWF efforts: According to ProGeorgia, 66.41% of voters whom NAPAWF contacted about the runoff turned out to vote, compared with 43.95% of AAPI voters statewide. NAPAWF demonstrates how data, language accessibility, and consistent engagement are key in turning out the vote.

The Asian/Asian American and AAPI communities are hungry for change. NAPAWF weathered the storm of anti-Asian racism that rocked its community when the coronavirus pandemic hit by supporting staff and members to care for themselves and moving to remote working and digital organizing. NAPAWF’s quick pivot played a key role in their success during last year’s election cycle; however, their Integrated Voter Engagement program, diverse language capacity, intergenerational organizing, knowledge in the voter activation network (VAN), having a motivated and active base, and developing local partnerships all played critical roles in their extensive and wildly successful voter mobilization efforts.

Looking to the future, NAPAWF is working in coalition to launch Reproductive Justice Commissions in Chicago, IL, and Clarkson, GA; reintroduce the Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act into the U.S. Congress; fight in multiple states against sex and race selection abortion bans that are being used to test and overturn Roe v. Wade, and expand its year-round integrated voter engagement work into a new state. And they’re just getting started. As they build power and a brighter tomorrow, NAPAWF will continue to engage potential AAPI women voters in deep conversations and meaningful outreach to uncover and provide solutions around voting barriers.

“I believe that real change starts with the individual; each of us has the power to make things happen, and through grassroots organizing and advocacy, we can join together and harness that people power.”

— Aishwarya Iyer, Canvasser and first-time voter

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