The homeowner in Duluth, Georgia, opened her screen door and softly said, “I’m not good at English.” The two volunteers, clutching clipboards and political fliers, were on the Korean woman’s porch to talk about the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.
“I speak some Korean,” said Grace Pai, in Korean. “It’s terrible,” Pai added in broken Korean. Pai explained how she and her fellow volunteer, Syed Hussain, were canvassing houses for the Asian American Advocacy Fund to talk to Asian American voters for Democratic challengers in the runoffs.
“My mother immigrated to the US from Korea as a girl,” explained Pai. The homeowner, delighted to hear her native language, explained to the canvassers how much affordable health care meant to her family.
Pai pressed the woman to send her absentee ballot in by mail for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.
As Pai and Hussain left the woman’s porch, the homeowner pumped her fist in the air, promising she would.
Conversations like these are key for volunteers who believe the only chance to flip the two Republican Senate seats in Georgia to the Democrats is through broad based coalitions, which includes Asian Americans.
In the state where President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump by just 12,284 votes in November, activists say there’s little question the surge in Asian American voters helped flip the state in November.
They just have to reach them.
“There are so many people like that woman, Asian American voters who have never been asked about their political beliefs, who have never been asked why voting is important to them,” Pai said. “I think this tailored outreach means a lot.”
“It’s counties like this, at least in my view, that gave Joe Biden that win,” said Hussain, 21. The college student grew up in Gwinnett County, which has seen Korean immigrants drive the growth of Asian Americans in the Atlanta suburbs.
Across the entire Atlanta metro area, the Asian American and Pacific Islander electorate has grown significantly in recent years — mirroring the trend of the increasing and diversifying population across the state — specifically in and around the capital city of Atlanta.
While AAPIs are a small share of the electorate in Georgia, the number of Asian American voters grew seven times as much as other racial and ethnic groups combined.