Can Utah's Pacific Islander Community Influence Elections?
Utah’s Pacific Islander community has historically had fairly low voter turnouts, but members of Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition, also known as UPI-CEC, hope to change that. The group held its first-ever Civic Engagement Town Hall event at the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday to encourage members of the demographic to vote.
There are more than 45,000 Pacific Islanders in Utah, according to Matapuna Levenson, the outreach coordinator for UPI-CEC. She believes they have a shot at influencing local elections this year.
“Although it may seem that this is a small population, I think we really can make a difference, especially on the local level in close races,” Levenson said. “Areas where we have high concentrations of our Pacific Islander population, especially in West Valley, we absolutely can make a difference in close races.”
Levenson said the group applauds local Pacific Islanders who are running for office. There are six Pacific Islanders running for various positions around the state this year. Several of those candidates went to the Civic Engagement Town Hall event on Saturday.
In addition to having an opportunity to visit with candidates, guests at the event were given information about how and where to vote. Levenson hopes more and more Pacific Islanders choose to vote.
“I really encourage those who did not attend the town hall to go to vote.utah.gov to register to vote and to make sure that they coordinate and arrange their schedules so they can mail in those ballots in on time, before November 8,” she said.
Levenson believes Pacific Islanders can make a difference.
“They talk about in studies that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the lowest voter turnout rate,” she said. “At the same time, we have the fastest growing ethnic population in this country. We are growing, we are a presence, not only here in Utah but in this nation. We are a force for change, a force for good, and I hope we take advantage of the right to vote to assert that power.”