Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 U.S. elections series: Voter participation, immigrants more American?

*This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 21 December 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.

WESTMINSTER, California—Vietnamese Americans are more American than Americans.
Orange County (OC) Senior Deputy District Attorney and 2012 candidate for the OC Superior Court judgeship Mr. Jeff Ferguson excitedly explained such thoughts to the Viễn Đông, adding that Vietnamese Americans have taken full advantage of their civic participation opportunities available in the United States.
More so than most Americans whose families have been in the country for a longer period of time, especially such American youths.
“They get out and vote,” Mr. Ferguson said of Vietnamese Americans.
In OC, 63 percent of the registered voting age population (VAP) turned out to vote in the 2008 general election, while 62 percent of that VAP was Vietnamese American.
“That’s something this community has learned-how important it is to vote,” Ms. Trần Tammy, District Representative for California 34th Senate District (SD) Senator Lou Correa, told the Viễn Đông, adding that the Vietnamese American community is like other immigrant communities from countries worldwide that came to the United States in search of democracy. “They appreciate it.”
The community began immigrating to the United States in large numbers, following the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
Fleeing social, economic, and political oppression, the first Vietnamese immigrants who would establish the Vietnamese American community in the United States desired to be actively involved in their new country, participating in the social, economic, and political arenas they were denied in Vietnam.
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that most Americans-including the first Europeans who set up colonies- were actually descendants of immigrants who were fleeing their countries due to oppression.
“America is considered a place of freedom,” he said. “That’s why we have to watch it very carefully.”
 Taking advantage of freedom
The United States is among other democracies worldwide that hold multi-party elections, allowing its citizens to rotate the ideologies in power and vote for representatives who express opposite or differing views from their neighbors.
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that a lot of places around the world require a candidate willing to take on the “status quo” to be sure of winning. Otherwise, if that candidate loses there is still a threat to the opposition and the candidate could be exiled or even killed.
Then, some countries do not even entertain the thought of allowing a second party to compete for public office.
“This country has a wonderful system,” he said, adding that the United States has had time to develop democracy. “We have really avoided civil war.”
He added that the crisis surrounding the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court selection of former President George W. Bush could have turned out to be disastrous.
Former President Bush had lost the popular vote to candidate Mr. Al Gore, which was contested, and the Supreme Court voted for him 5-4, thus giving him the election and making him President.
“We as Americans accepted it,” Senator Correa said of the decision. “We accepted the process and we moved forward.”
However, the Supreme Court decision that year is possibly among reasons why there are Americans who do not vote, feeling as though their vote will not matter anyway.
In October 2011, the Viễn Đông reported on youth voting and found that among the reasons for a lacking youth vote was the feeling that their voices did not really matter.
Justification for such feeling included the lack of education surrounding voting and voter registration.
“They [teachers] said it was important for us to register, but didn’t say exactly where or how to,” Ms. Jasmine Roberts, who graduated from Fontana’s Henry J. Kaiser High Class of 2010 and took her U.S. government and civics course in summer school, told the Viễn Đông .“I have not registered myself, nor have I voted on anything.”
Such lack of desire for inclusion into the political system is further fueled by voting law changes and special interests involved in politics that the Viễn Đông also reported about in October 2011.
The Brennan Center for Justice found that over 5 million voters nationwide-especially ethnic minority voters- could be disadvantaged in the 2012 elections, as over a dozen states have passed voting law changes, such as requiring photo ID’s for registration.
These voting law changes have been found to be largely backed by Republicans and funded by special interest groups.
The highly publicized Occupy Movement has opposed such special interest group involvement in the political process, as well as called for changes to the social, economic, and political process within the United States and such processes abroad.
Influenced by the spring 2011 pro-democracy protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Occupy Movement began in September 2011 in New York City (NYC) and San Francisco. It soon became popular in cities throughout the United States and even internationally, resulting in marches, port shutdowns, and encampments on public property.
Occupy-OC Irvine’s civic liaison between the group and the City of Irvine Mr. Greg Diamond told the Viễn Đông that the main point of the movement was to get people talking about issues that go untouched, like government corruption.
Though, that term is possibly relative to specific communities.
Mr. Ferguson told the Viễn Đông that most Americans, have been used to a certain, high standard of freedom, allowing them to take advantage of it and not fully appreciate their rights.
Vietnamese Americans who were born in Vietnam have felt their rights suppressed, he said, leading to their thankfulness for such rights in the United States.

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