Palatine, IL: Sikh Religious Society hosted a Civic Engagement and Voter’s Education Forum presented by speakers Reema Kapur and Zahra Saylawala from South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) and Steve Hosik Moon from Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago on February 21, 2016, at Sikh Gurudwara in Palatine Illinois. Rajinder Singh Mago, Public and Media Relations Coordinator organized the event for the Sikh Society.
The speakers in the forum explained the importance of civic engagement, getting registered to vote and exercising their right to vote by actually casting their ballot. Also, the speakers spoke about the importance of attendees encouraging and mobilizing others in the Asian American community to get the vote out.
The presentation included specific examples backed by statistical data hitting the point home that every vote does count especially where many tight races are decided with a minuscule margin of few hundred votes.
“We need to get inspiration from the Indo-Canadian community which has fared extremely well in the recent Canadian elections where several cabinet ministers and even the federal defense minister appointed are Sikh Indo-Canadians,” said Rajinder Singh Mago, “our community is also encouraged to work as paid poll workers, election judges, or volunteer in election campaigns,” he added.
A display table was also setup in the lobby with pertinent literature to educate the community members. The Asian American community’s population growth rate is such that by the year 2050 the Asian American community is expected to be the leading minority voting block in the U.S.
For the 2016 general and primary elections, the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago (Advancing Justice | Chicago) will be partnering to mobilize the South Asian community to get out the vote.
The goal is to increase voting rates among South Asians in Illinois, particularly the greater Chicagoland area. Together, SAAPRI and Advancing Justice | Chicago will host forums for community discussion about the importance of exercising the right to vote.
“The South Asian community needs to respond to the current climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric, xenophobia and Islamaphobia with political action and power,” said Reema Kapur, Executive Director of SAAPRI. “We encourage South Asian community leaders to join our initiative to empower the community.”
There are over 242,000 South Asians living in Illinois, made up of people born abroad or in the United States and descending from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, or Bhutan. Among South Asians in Illinois, 67% are U.S. citizens and therefore eligible to register and vote.
The next election in Illinois will take place on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 where voters will select Democratic and Republican Party nominees for President, Senate, and Congress, as well as the Illinois General Assembly and local races. The general election will be held on November 8, 2016.