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Desis Hold Fate Of Statewide Elections

Toby Chaudhuri

Massachusetts voters this Tuesday will decide which Democratic candidate will face-off against the Republican, Libertarian and Green Party candidates for governor this November. The victor will setup a hotly contested race that will determine how we live, work and raise our families for the next four years.

Paul Cellucci in the last gubernatorial election eked out a narrow victory against Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. Voter turnout was one of the lowest in recent history. Thousands of desi voters could have made a difference.

The 2000 Census shows Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in Massachusetts – up almost 70% since 1990. But a report released this summer by the Institute of Asian American Studies at UMass Boston (www.iaas.umb.edu) shows that this growth has “not been met by high levels of Asian American electoral participation and political clout.

The study states that increasing participation and influence is a major challenge to the Asian American community and that only a quarter of adult Asians are registered to vote, compared to 41% of Hispanics and 56% of blacks.

In response to this disparity, 150 desi opinion leaders and organization chairs in Massachusetts received a memorandum yesterday asking for their support to engage their communities to participate civically.

"If last September 11th was America’s darkest day, this September 11th can be our brightest day,” began the missive. “As desis, we hold together with a common sense of history and anti-colonial mission. Nothing is more basic to your freedom than the right to vote."

The memo to leaders ramps up a community based initiative to turnout thousands of Massachusetts desi voters in this fall’s elections. The campaign is called the "MASS DESI VOTE" project.

Supporters of the program see politics as an avenue for democratic participation – a means for average people to get a say in their government or a democratic community’s efforts to solve its problems.

The desi community’s most civically engaged voices are advising "MASS DESI VOTE" The longest-serving desi elected official in America, Maryland Delegate Kumar Barve, pledged his support. Minnesota State Senator Satveer Chaudhary, the highest-ranking desi elected official in the country – who won an overwhelming victory this week in a tight Primary Election to hold his seat – is doing what he can too.

 The study sets the challenge. This election sets the stage. MASS DESI VOTE provides an opportunity. Let’s hear the Lok Vani this November 5th at the polls.

(Toby Chaudhuri, a former Clinton Administration political appointee, served as Deputy Press Secretary to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Send him questions at toby@fiam.net, 978-884-8626. )

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