VoteProject reaches out to Asian-American students

By David Servatius, Staff Writer

The U VoteProject has joined forces with the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce in a drive to get Asian-American students at the U registered to vote before the Oct. 6 mail-in deadline for the state.

Thomas Jarvis, director of VoteProject on campus, said the Asian chamber will work with the Asian-American Student Association, one of the groups in the VoteProject coalition, and will provide about $100 for tabling efforts, advertising and other material costs.

In return, the chamber is asking that AASA make it a goal to register about 300 of the roughly 1,400 Asian-American students at the U.
Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce President-Elect Roger Tsai, a local attorney, said the chamber set aside approximately $2,000 this year to distribute to student groups at colleges and universities statewide that are willing to help with similar efforts on their campuses.

“We were seeing a lot of reports of low voter turnout within the Asian demographic,” Tsai said. “That was something we wanted to address and wanted to change, so we’re asking students and student groups to help us get Asians in the state involved in the political process.”

This is often a challenge, Tsai said.

“We’ve got about 40,000 people in Utah. We don’t have a common language source or a common newspaper where we can just advertise. We can’t just go door to door. We have to do it in a different way,” he said.

Although the goal is to register Asian-American students to vote, Tsai said everyone is welcome to participate in the effort.

“This is not just for AASA to participate,” he said. “We want any and every group, any student that wants to participate, Asian, non-Asian, whatever race or ethnicity.”

Jarvis said a competition between VoteProject and the chamber was originally envisioned, but the plan was ultimately scrapped in favor of collaboration.

“We decided it would be most effective to simply have them provide some funding for the Asian-American group on campus,” Jarvis said. “That way everybody wins. We want everyone registered and they want Asian-Americans registered. It makes a lot of sense.”

Tsai said he thinks it will be easier for the two groups to work together than to compete against each other in the drive.

ASUU Government Relations Board Director Andrew Jensen said Tsai contacted the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics earlier this year, which referred him to the ASUU Government Relations Board and VoteProject.

“The chamber wanted VoteProject to provide training to its leadership on the strategies and tactics for getting out the vote that we were using on campus,” Jensen said.

Jarvis attended a meeting at the chamber with representatives from the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office, which is responsible for voter registration county-wide, and the plan to work together was born.

“We are doing a lot of outreach into the surrounding community,” Jarvis said. “We are trying to go off campus and find ways to reach out to different groups on campus that don’t typically get as politically involved.”

He said VoteProject was previously active on the U campus during the 2004 and 2006 election cycles. The group sets up tables and hangs posters on campus to make it as easy as possible for U students to find information about the candidates and the issues, get registered to vote and locate their polling location.

They train and work with a coalition of other campus groups including the Bennion Community Service Center, the Greek Council, the Latter-day Saint Student Association and diversity groups like AASA.