First Asian American Wins Citywide Office and Two Asian Americans Join City Council in Historic NYC Elections

Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009

In New York City's historic Nov. 3 General Election, John Liu became the first Asian American to win citywide office as Comptroller, and two Asian American candidates, Margaret Chin and Peter Koo, were elected to the 51-member City Council.

Two Asian American Democratic candidates were defeated in close City Council races in Queens. Republican Peter Koo edged out his Democratic opponent, Yen Chou, in District 20 in Flushing, Queens. Korean American Democrat Kevin Kim lost to Republican Dan Halloran in District 19 in Bayside, Queens, a contest marred by racial harassment and anti-Asian slurs. And despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's narrow five-point victory over William Thompson, 62% of Asian American voters supported the mayor's re-election.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) today released the preliminary results of its nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of over 2,000 Asian American voters in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. AALDEF conducted the exit poll at 13 poll sites in six languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Bengali, Punjabi, and Urdu. AALDEF also dispatched 150 attorneys, law students and community volunteers to 50 poll sites to monitor the voting process.

MULTILINGUAL EXIT POLL

  • In the race for Mayor, 62% of Asian American voters favored Republican Michael Bloomberg over Democrat William Thompson.

    Most Asian ethnic groups--68% of Chinese Americans and 65% of Korean Americans--supported Bloomberg by a wide margin. By contrast, most South Asian American voters supported Thompson by 61% to 39%. Bloomberg won re-election by 51% to 46%.

  • In the citywide race for Comptroller, 90% of Asian American voters favored Democrat John Liu over Republican Joseph Mandola.

    John Liu won overwhelming support from all Asian ethnic groups--94% of Chinese Americans, 92% of Korean Americans, and 73% of South Asian Americans. Liu, the City's top vote-getter at 696,330 votes, won by a margin of 76% to 19%, beating his opponent by over 500,000 votes.

  • In City Council races, Asian Americans polled voted for the following candidates:

    District 1 *(Chinatown/Lower East Side): *Margaret Chin-D 97%, Irene Horvath-R 3%
    District 19 *(Bayside): *Kevin Kim-D 99%, Daniel Halloran-R 1%
    District 20 *(Flushing): *Peter Koo-R 53%; Yen Chou-D 46%; Evergreen Chou-G 1%
    District 25 (Jackson Heights): Danny Dromm-D 64%, Mujib Rahman-R 36%%.

  • Asian Americans cited Economy/Jobs as the most important issue influencing their votes.

    Economy/Jobs was the dominant issue for a majority of Asian American voters (54%), followed by Health Care (48%), Public Safety (33%), Education, (30%), Ethnic/Race Issues (17%), Housing (14%), and Terrorism/Security (8%).

The largest Asian ethnic groups polled were Chinese (49%), Korean (24%), and South Asian (20%). Ninety percent (90%) of those polled were foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens, and 11% were first-time voters.

The AALDEF exit poll reveals vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. AALDEF polled 790 Asian American voters in the 2009 New York City Primary Election, and almost 17,000 Asian American voters in 11 states in the 2008 Presidential Election. AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988, noting the steadily increasing numbers of new citizen and first-time voters.

POLL MONITORING
Volunteer attorneys monitored 50 poll sites for compliance with a settlement in AALDEF's federal lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections for past violations of the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

In the District 19 Bayside City Council race between Dan Halloran and Kevin Kim, several Asian American voters were challenged and some were denied language assistance. Poll workers and partisan poll watchers interfered when Asian American voters needed assistance from interpreters. At one poll site, Korean American voters received little assistance since only Chinese interpreters were available.

At another site, white voters were told not to vote for Kim because "he's Chinese." In mid-October, two of Kim's campaign volunteers were pelted by a football by a group of white males shouting "White Power!" and racist slurs. The police are currently investigating this incident as a hate crime.

Asian American voters in other parts of the City also faced a number of barriers in exercising their right to vote. Interpreter shortages made voting difficult for limited English proficient voters. Voters complained of hostile poll workers, improper requests for ID, broken voting machines, and denials of voting by affidavit ballot. All of these voter problems were reported to the New York City Board of Elections, which investigated the complaints at AALDEF's urging.

Poll monitors confirmed that language assistance and bilingual ballots are needed to preserve access to the vote. Only 16% identified English as their native language, and 60% of Asian Americans polled said that they were limited English proficient. A number of poll sites were mandated to provide bilingual ballots and interpreters under the federal Voting Rights Act. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of all respondents preferred to use some form of language assistance to vote, and 43% said they would be more likely to vote if language assistance were available and publicized.

AALDEF partnered with several groups to mobilize volunteer attorneys, law students, college students and community residents on Election Day: Asian American Bar Association of New York; Hunter College/CUNY, Asian American Studies Program; Korean American Association of Greater New York; Korean American League for Civic Action; MinKwon Center for Community Action; Muslim Bar Association of New York; The Sikh Coalition; South Asian Bar Association of New York; and South Asian Youth Action!

For more information:
Margaret Fung
Executive Director
212.966.5932 ext. 200
mfung@aaldef.org

Glenn D. Magpantay
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 206
gmagpantay@aaldef.org