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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Phone Bank Aims to Increase Voting Among Non-English Speakers

Volunteers are calling unlikely voters to increase voter turnout in Los Angeles, ATVN’s Maritza Moulite has the story.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, is taking efforts to increase voter turnout by organizing volunteers to call low propensity voters like the newly registered and young people. 

With 17 languages represented in 40,000 calls, Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Los Angeles is one of the most linguistically diverse phone banks in the nation. The organization benefits groups like Asian-Americans, California’s fastest growing racial group, who are struggling to overcome a language barrier.  

“Even though some are very proud to be Americans they still need someone to speak their own language,” volunteer Varintorn Vongfak said.

Limited English proficiency could be partly responsible for lower voter turnout for some ethnic groups but there are many other factors.

“Most Japanese Americans today, the folks that we’re calling speak English. But there are a lot of folks in the Cambodian community that are limited English proficient. I think there’s just a lack of engagement as well,” volunteer Nathanel Lowe said. 

Los Angeles is home to the largest Korean-American community in the United States. According to the organization’s analysis of data from California’s 2012 election, Koreans had a voter turnout of about 56 percent in the last election, while the average turnout of all registered voters was 72 percent. 

“I know that I don’t vote in every election. But I also don’t hear a lot [from people] in the Asian community that it’s really that important,” said Ahyoung Chi. 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles is working to change that belief one call at a time.

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