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MSU, U-M groups vie to register student voters

September 9, 2010

Asian American students across MSU’s campus are gearing up for a fight in perhaps one of the most overlooked necessities in the U.S. — voter registration.

The Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan, or APIA Vote-Michigan, is hosting a voter registration contest between Asian American student groups at MSU and the University of Michigan. They hope to register at least 400 Asian American students by Oct. 1. APIAVote is a national organization that encourages Asian Americans to vote.

“The percentage of those that vote in the Asian American community is very small, and many don’t think that one vote makes a difference,” said Deepa Varghese, ASMSU’s Student Assembly representative for the MSU Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO. “It’s a general stereotype that needs to be broken.”

Both the United Asian American Organization, or UAAO, at U-M and APASO at MSU will compete to register the most Asian American students. An umbrella group for 11 Asian affiliate student groups at MSU, APASO was approached in the summer by APIAVote-Michigan to generate more interest for
the November general elections.

“A lot of people don’t think a non-presidential election is that important and we’re really trying to make sure people are aware,” said Stephanie Chang, president of APIAVote-Michigan.

Steve Tzeng, president of the Chinese Student Coalition at MSU, said making voter registration into a competition with U-M will be a huge incentive for those that want to beat the rival university.

“Asian Americans are underrepresented when it comes to voting, and by trying to get more people to register, we can become a bigger voice in the MSU community and the U.S.,” said Tzeng, a supply chain management junior.

To register to vote in Michigan, students must be at least 18 years old by Nov. 2 and be a U.S. citizen. Though the campus that registers the most voters will not win a prize, the student group that registers the most voters will receive $250 and the group that registers the second highest number of voters will receive $100.

“There tend to be a lot of barriers for Asians when it comes to voting, whether it be language barriers or even transportation issues,” Chang said. “We’re trying to make the voting process less intimidating and as easy as possible. It can increase our voice on issues that affect our community.”

Varghese said she thinks many of the Asian affiliate organizations on campus have a lot of pride when it comes to representing their school, but in the end, it’s about getting the most students registered.

“Asians should be able to speak their minds and know their voice needs to be heard,” Varghese said. “All you have to do is register and vote. It’s not a hard process and every vote counts in the end.”

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