The MinKwon Center for Community Action reached a significant milestone earlier this month when it registered its 50,000th citizen to vote in New York state.
The center leads a campaign, formally known as the New Citizen Voter Registration Project initiated by the New York Immigration Coalition, which has worked since 2004 to get people, and especially immigrants, registered to participate in American elections.
“Democracy functions best when people turn out to the polls and vote, and voter registration is the very first step,” said MinKwon’s board president, S.J. Jung. “And even greater than the achievement itself is the fact that we are helping to facilitate a democracy.”
The center celebrated the announcement with an event Nov. 16 which attracted Tony Avella, who was elected earlier this month to the state Senate by a voting bloc that included many immigrants. He said after the election that the Asian-American vote — more than 80 percent of which he received in the race against Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), according to a MinKwon exit poll — was key to his victory.
“This effort needs to continue,” Avella said. “There’s no question that the new voters made a difference. Having voting power means not only that existing elected officials will have to pay more attention — it means more resources for your organizations and issues you’re concerned about.”
Chung-hwa Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, also praised the MinKwon Center’s efforts in bringing more new Americans to the polls.
“This is the largest, multi-ethnic, immigrant voter registration project in the country,” she said. “Half of first-time voters are immigrant voters, but we aren’t looking just at this. This voter work must culminate in policy victories.”
Despite the high percentage of first-time voters who arrived here from distant shores, The New York Times has reported that turnout in this past election was lower in New York than in any other state in the union.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2010 Community News Group
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