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2016

Asian and Pacific Islander Voter Participation


Written and compiled by Bill Baugh, Win/Win


Voting participation among the Asian and Pacific Islander community in Washington State reached an
all-time high in 2016. While many obstacles exist that prohibit equitable voting participation, especially
in Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, 2016 marked a record high in voter registration and vote
share for the API community in Washington. These trends are very encouraging and show signs that the
voter participation gap in the API community is decreasing.

The four major data points we rely on to track disparities in API political participation include: Citizen
Voting Age Population (CVAP), voter registration percentage, voter turnout, and vote share.

Citizen Voting Age Population: CVAP is data that is collected by the American Community Survey and
gives the best estimates of the number of eligible API voters. Currently, APIs make up 6.5% of all eligible
voters in Washington1.

Voter Registration Percentage: Voter registration percentage is the percentage of API voters among all
registered voters for any given year. In 2016, APIs made up 4.9% of all registered voters in Washington.

Voter Turnout: The percentage of registered voters that voted in a particular election. In 2016, 67% of all
registered APIs voted in the general election.

Vote share: Different from voter turnout, vote share refers to the percentage of ballots cast for any
given election. In 2016, APIs made up 4.2% of all ballots cast in the general election.

Looking at these four interrelated data points over time can help us better understand how the API
community is participating in the political process and help identify key trends. Asian and Pacific
Islanders account for 6.5% of the eligible voter population in Washington State, a rate that steadily
increases by approximately .1% every year. In theory, if no disparities exist, CVAP, voter registration and
vote share would all be the same number. Since APIs account for 6.5% of all eligible voters, they should
also account for 6.5% of all registered voters and 6.5% of all ballots cast in every election. Unfortunately,
barriers do exist and APIs only account for 4.9% of all registered voters and 4.2% of ballots cast in the
2016 general election.

Increasing participation - and therefore reducing disparities - of underrepresented communities is a


priority of the Win/Win Network partners and a key tenant in our theory of change. A focus on voter
registration and voter mobilization among Asian and Pacific Islander communities could provide key
opportunities in reducing these disparities over the long-term.

The chart below looks at these trends over the past seven years.2 Although CVAP and voter registration
has steadily gained over the years, vote share fluctuates depending on the election year, with fewer


1
The most recent CVAP data available is for 2015. The 2016 was estimated based on previous trends.
2
Reliable voter data is not available prior to 2010.

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disparities in high-saliency elections and larger disparities in low-saliency elections, a trend that is
consistent among all underrepresented communities. As shown in the chart below, there was a
significant spike in both voter registration and vote share in 2016.

Historic API Voter Par^cipa^on


7.0%
6.5%
6.3% 6.4%
6.1% 6.2%
5.9% 5.9%
6.0%

5.0% 4.9%
4.7% 4.6%
4.2% 4.4%
3.9% 4.0%
4.0% 4.2%
3.6%
3.0%
2.9% 2.9%
2.7% 2.8%
2.0% 2.4%

1.0%

0.0%
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Eligible Voters Registered Voters Vote Share



Voter Registration
2016 marked an all-time high for API voter registration. Asian and Pacific Islanders now account for
4.9% of all registered voters in Washington, the highest rate it has ever been. In addition, APIs
accounted for 8.1% of all new voter registrations in 2016, another record high. Even though these rates
are very encouraging and provide testimony to the importance of voter registration efforts, there are
still approximately 97,000 eligible APIs voters that are not registered to vote.

The chart below shows how the overall voter registration rate compares to that of new voter
registrations for each given year. Prior to 2016, APIs averaged approximately 6.3% of all new voter
registrations in any given year, reaching its peak in 2012 at 7.2%. This rate spiked in 2016 to 8.1%,
showing a large increase in the rate that APIs registered to vote in 2016.

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API Percentage of New Voter Registra^ons


9%

8.1%
8%
7.2%
7% 6.8%
6.5%
6.1%
6% 5.7% 5.6%

5%

4%

3%

2%

1%

0%
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016


2016 New Voter Registrations New Voter Registration Counts
% of Eligible % of New Total API Voter
Voters Registrations Year % API
Registrations Registrations
API 6.4% 8.1% 2010 180,752 10,267 5.7%
Black 3.4% 3.6% 2011 133,872 7,549 5.6%
Latino 6.4% 9.7% 2012 274,949 19,689 7.2%
White 79.5% 76.4% 2013 120,591 8,158 6.8%
2014 137,758 8,466 6.1%
2015 155,708 10,069 6.5%
2016 307,137 24,954 8.1%

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Vote Share and Voter Turnout
Turnout among the API community is lower when compared to the statewide average, which is
consistent across all other historically underrepresented communities in Washington. In addition, even
though the API vote share of 4.9% in 2016 was a record high, turnout among the API community
dropped from 69% in 2012, to 67% in 2016. This 2% drop doesnt represent an abnormality when this
turnout is comparable to the state average and a drop among other communities. Considering that API
vote share and voter registration reached its highest point in 2016, the fact that voter turnout remained
fairly consistent suggests that voter mobilization efforts were less responsible for reducing the API voter
participation disparities and it was more likely due to the increase in voter registrations.

Historic API Turnout


90%
81%
80% 79%

71%
70%
69% 67%
60%
53% 54%
56%
50% 45%

40%
38%
35% 35%
30%
28%
20% 24%

10%

0%
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Statewide API


Election Results:
Without exit polls available in Washington State, we look to other interesting data points and precinct-
level trends to extrapolate relevant election information. By looking at precinct-level data, we can
isolate those that have large percentages of API voters and see how these precincts vote and/or roll off
(i.e. dont vote the full ballot) on any given race. Though we wont be able to attribute these trends

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directly to API voters, it does provide anecdotal information as to how people in the API community
voted.

The results below show interesting trends regarding API voting behavior. Precincts with at least 20% API
voters tend to be very Democratic and support progressive initiatives. The higher the API percentage,
the larger the precincts tended to support these Democratic candidates.

Another interesting data point to look at is to compare Hillary Clintons performance with that of Jay
Inslees. Across all of Washington, Hillary Clinton and Jay Inslee received nearly the same support, with
Clinton receiving 54.30% compared to Inslees 54.39%. Even though the support was nearly identical,
API precincts supported Clinton at a sizeable rate over Jay Inslee. This suggests that, even though the API
precincts are largely Democratic, they tended to be more in support of Hillary Clinton (or, more anti-
Trump) when compared to the rest of the state.

One final data point to look at is roll off. Roll off refers to the percentage of people who cast a ballot in
the election, but failed to vote on a particular race. With exception to the Presidential race, precincts
with larger number of API voters tend to roll off at higher rate, suggesting that API voters are more
prone to fill out a partial ballot.

# of Hillary Clinton Patty Murray Jay Inslee Sound Transit 3


API % Precinct
s Support Roll Off Support Roll Off Support Roll Off Support Roll Off
Over 50% 20 84.9% 2.8% 88.1% 5.3% 84.1% 5.7% 61.9% 7.1%
40 - 50% 19 76.9% 4.0% 76.9% 4.2% 71.9% 4.9% 57.5% 6.7%
30 - 40% 75 74.2% 3.9% 75.1% 4.2% 70.8% 4.6% 55.3% 7.2%
20 - 30% 199 69.4% 4.4% 70.3% 4.3% 65.3% 4.6% 52.3% 7.5%

# of Initiative 1433 Initiative 1464 Initiative 1491 Initiative 1501


API % Precinct
s Support Roll Off Support Roll Off Support Roll Off Support Roll Off
Over 50% 20 85.1% 8.2% 64.2% 14.7% 89.0% 6.8% 74.1% 8.5%
40 - 50% 19 71.9% 6.8% 54.3% 12.8% 84.7% 5.8% 71.3% 7.1%
30 - 40% 75 72.2% 6.3% 54.9% 11.8% 83.2% 5.3% 71.4% 6.7%
20 - 30% 199 68.0% 5.9% 50.7% 11.4% 80.2% 5.0% 72.6% 6.4%

# of Initiative 732 Initiative 732


API %
Precincts Support Roll Off Support Roll Off
Over 50% 20 62.1% 12.2% 81.2% 12.9%
40 - 50% 19 54.6% 10.5% 71.3% 11.9%
30 - 40% 75 53.0% 10.0% 71.8% 11.0%
20 - 30% 199 49.9% 9.7% 68.3% 10.6%

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