LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA - Tuesday, Sept. 25, was National Voter Registration Day in the US. It was a chance for volunteers to seek more Khmer-speaking voters across the country.
In Long Beach, Calif., volunteers set up four stations to grab potential voters in hopes of improving the very low voter turnout rate of Cambodian-Americans in Los Angeles County.
The volunteers say Election Day, Nov. 6, is a chance for Cambodian-Americans to have their voices heard on a number of issues—not just who will be the next US President.
Volunteers on Tuesday sought out more voters for upcoming elections in the US. At a shaded table outside a restaurant in Long Beach, they signed up more than 20 new Cambodian-American voters.
Among them was Kim Dara, the owner of the restaurant. He grew up in Cambodia.“But I’m an American citizen now—Cambodian, but Cambodian-America,” he said. “So as a US citizen, I want to vote now.”
Anyone who is aged 18 or over on Election Day can vote, as long as he or she is not in prison for a serious crime or on parole. Voters will not just elect the next US president. Many local issues are decided on Election Day.
Chanou Pasin, chairman of the Cambodia Town committee and a volunteer for voter registration, says real power can come from votes on local issues.
“City Hall doesn’t listen to us, right?” he said. “But if they know we have a lot of people registered to vote, they surely will.”
Volunteers also passed out a “voter’s bill of rights,” which includes the right to a secret ballot, the right to Khmer-language assistance and the right to report fraudulent activities to election officials.
Volunteers like Chanou Pasin and others were trained on voter registration on Monday, Sept. 24. Their job is to improve the low voter turnout rate among Khmer-speakers in the 88 cities of Los Angeles County. These volunteers and others will be looking for more voters through the deadline for registration, Oct. 22.
The registration form is available in Khmer language. Voters will have Khmer language material on Election Day and Khmer speakers to help them at the polls. Registration can be completed online at www.lavote.net. Once registered, anyone can vote by mail or at the county headquarters ahead of time. Or they can experience the polls on Election Day.
Volunteer Chan Narath grew up in Washington state, but she was only recently made a US citizen and registered to vote. For her, it was a chance to have a voice.
“I’ve always felt on the sidelines of this country, and so I’m trying to become more a part of it,” she said. “And I’m getting emotional because we feel so left out, and we have to fight for everything. And so I just want people to know that it’s worth it.”