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Closing the Digital Divide for AAPI Voters is Vital to Defending Democracy

The upcoming 2024 election cycle is a critical moment for the AAPI community and America at-large. Voting provides AAPI voices a unique opportunity to make ourselves heard and shape policy in communities across America.

AAPI voters are already making an impact, and that impact is on the rise. From 2000 to 2019, the Asian American population grew by 81 percent, making them one of the fastest growing racial groups in the United States. Next election cycle, there will be more eligible AAPI voters than ever before. In fact, the AAPI electorate is projected to double from 5.9 million eligible voters in 2015 to 12.2 million in 2040. More eligible AAPI voters means more AAPI influence in determining elections. However, our community’s influence won’t be fully felt unless all AAPI voters have access to digital resources like broadband internet.

The internet is quickly becoming a place for AAPIs to stay informed, civically engaged, and make our voices heard. As Pew Research notes, nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they “sometimes” or “often” get news from a smartphone, computer or tablet – all of which are powered by broadband internet. And in states across the country, voter registration and get-out-the-vote initiatives are increasingly moving online. AAPI voters should not be left out of our democratic process simply because they lack access to digital tools like broadband internet. At APIAVote, we believe internet access must be afforded to the entire AAPI community to allow for full engagement in civic life. That’s why we recently signed onto a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for fast, reliable internet for communities of color – especially the AAPI community.

Asian Americans without internet are on the wrong side of the digital divide – and we must redouble our efforts to bring more AAPIs online and into the democratic process. One place to start is by ensuring AAPIs can afford high-speed broadband internet service in their area. We know that 12 out of 19 Asian origin groups have poverty rates higher than the U.S. average, proving that cost plays a major role in connecting to the internet. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is an FCC benefit program that offers eligible individuals up to $30 off their monthly internet bill – plus discounts on internet-connected devices. So far, nearly 17 million households have saved over half a billion dollars each month thanks to the ACP. Congress must make the ACP permanent and provide the program additional funding, so voters of all backgrounds can read online news, inform themselves about the issues, and digitally register to vote.

Gaining internet access isn’t just about income. It is also about accurately marketing broadband internet offerings across a very diverse AAPI community. Nearly 4 in 10 Asian Americans say they speak English less than very well, which adds an additional barrier to signing up for the internetb, registering to vote, and more. The FCC should continue marketing the ACP through culturally relevant messaging across numerous languages, so AAPI households aren’t left out.

The next two years will be critical to our democracy and the future of our nation. APIAVote looks forward to continuing engaging on the vitally important topic of broadband internet access, so the digital divide affecting AAPI Americans doesn’t become a democracy divide ahead of the next election.