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Asians Urged to Apply for Redistricting Commission

New America Media, News Report, Vivian Po Posted: Feb 05, 2010

SAN FRANCISCOWith only one week before Californias first Citizens Redistricting Commission ends its search for members, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in the applicant pool.

Although the application process began in mid-December 2009, the total number of AAPI applicants remains well below their proportion of the California population.

As of this morning, only 874 of the 16,898, or less than 6 percent of applicants are Asian American and Pacific Islander, said Victor Lim, representative from the office of San Franciscos Supervisor David Chiu.

According to recent Census data, approximately 15 percent of Californias population is AAPI, yet the total percentage of AAPI applicants is only a third of this number.

Yesterday, Lim and members of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting (CAPAFR), elected officials, and community advocates joined together at City Hall to urge Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to apply for membership on the Californias Citizens Redistricting Commission before the February 12 deadline.

The Commission was created by Proposition 11, also known as the Voters FIRST Act, which was passed two years ago. It is the first commission in Californias history to engage the public in statewide redistricting. By the end of the year, 14 members will be selected from the applicant pool to serve as commissioners with a role in redrawing the lines for the California State Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization districts.

We are facing a significant problem. The diversity of the currently applicant pool does not reflect the diversity of our great state, said Christopher Punongbayan, Deputy Director of Asian Law Caucus, one of the core members of CAPAFR.

Punongbayan said that since diversity is not a consideration in the selection process for commissioners, it is crucial to increase the total number of AAPI applicants and increase the chances of their representation.

Bryan Cong Do, a long time Asian community advocate, worried that if the API applicant pool cannot be increased before the deadline, regions in California with larger number of AAPI residents may be split. That is what occurred in the Berryessa District in northeastern San Jose in the last redistricting project.

Nine years ago, the Berryessa district with 52 percent Asian population was split into four areas, making it very hard to gather the power, Do said.

With the AAPI residents split among four voting districts, Do said AAPI in Berryessa were not able to elect API officials representing their needs on the state level until recently. Paul Fong was elected in the 22ND Assembly District, which includs part of northern Berryessa, with the help of the Chinese American population in nearby Cupertino.

Do said that lack of awareness about the redistricting commission and language barriers are reasons for the low numbers of applications. Another reason, he said, is that many Vietnamese Americans changed their party affiliation and were disqualified from applying. In the past eight years, the number of Vietnamese-American voters who changed their party status to decline to state increased, said Do.

Eligible applicants must be registered voters in California for at least last five years with the same party affiliation and have voted in at least two of the last three statewide general elections.

Kenneth Pon, a Chinese-American applicant, sent his application three weeks ago. He described the process as simple, requiring only answering simple yes/no questions. Anyone can do it if you have access to the Internet, said Pon.

Pon said he had a similar experience when he participated in redrawing school district lines in San Leandro. It was very meaningful, said Pon. I listened to people on why they wanted their community to stay together and put that into consideration while drawing the lines.

Other ethnic groups and women are also underrepresented in the applicant pool. People of color as a group make up less than a quarter of the applicants. In addition, less than 32 percent of the applicants are female.

The online application can be found at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

To Learn More:

Visit CAPAFR facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/capafr2011)


Attend San Jose redistricting workshop hosted by Asian Law Alliance on February 10, 2010, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. RSVP with Jacquelyn Maruhashi at alacensus@aol.com or (408) 287-9710.

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