KPBS: Effort Launches To Mobilize Vietnamese Voters in San Diego

Image for KPBS: Effort Launches To Mobilize Vietnamese Voters in San Diego

KPBS - With the California primary two weeks away, “get out the vote” operations are underway, and founders of a newly launched organization are targeting an ethnic group they feel is overlooked.

Viet Vote aims to boost civic engagement among San Diego’s Vietnamese community, one of the largest in the country. Its first public event on Tuesday encourages residents to gather at a City Heights restaurant to discuss the upcoming June 5 election.

Maggie Ta, a worksite organizer for the county employee union SEIU Local 221, said the gathering will help Vietnamese voters, especially those who do not speak English, better understand the issues and candidates on their ballots.

“Translating these items, and having conversations about each ballot initiative, each race — what do these things actually mean?” Ta said.

She said the group struggled to find another organization doing similar work.

“Other ethnicities have voter engagement, civic engagement platforms that elevate voices for other ethnicities — Vietnamese folks don’t have one,” Ta said.

At least one other Vietnamese American organization does operate in the region, but it emphasizes cultural awareness among youth.

Jerry Vattamala of the New York-based nonprofit Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said efforts like Viet Vote ensure minority communities are visible to politicians.

“When Asian American voters are ignored, elected officials then are not able to identify and remedy the issues that are important to the Asian American community,” said Vattamala, who leads the nonprofit’s democracy program…"