Arts organization wants to bring Asian voters to forefront

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita arts-based campaign says they’re looking to increase civic engagement among marginalized communities.

BE SEEN is the brainchild of Sarah Myose, a recent Wichita State graduate, who not only wanted to see a better representation of Asian artists across Wichita’s creative landscape but also wanted to politically engage and educate by providing multilingual and culture-oriented voting resources to those who speak English as a second language.

“We do have a struggle about staying quiet,” said Myose. “How can we get these tools and these resources out to this community so we can feel more empowered to speak up about issues.”

The Wichita State graduate says that much of the hesitation comes from the older generation who came to the United States as immigrants or refugees that are often intimidated by language barriers more than a general disinterest in local politics. She also says that many feel there isn’t enough education or resources to get involved.

The group realizes that decisions made by policymakers at all levels of government impact the day-to-day lives of those in Sedgwick County. Myose believes that representation matters and aims to translate voting resources in at least 8 different languages for Asian and Asian American communities.

According to Census.gov, the Asian population of Sedgwick County residents is less than 4%. Black and African American households in the county make up 9.3%, both considerably less than White households which make up 81% of the population.

Sedgwick County Asian Community Demographics
Asian Indian11.8
Bangladeshi1.3
Cambodian5.6
Chinese7.3
Filipino5.8
Hmong0.2
Indonesian0.2
Japanese1.4
Korean3.5
Laotian7.1
Malaysian0.3
Mongolian0.3
Nepalese1.4
Okinawan0.1
Pakastini2.4
Sri Lankan1.2
Taiwanese0.1
Thai2.2
Vietnamese43.3
Other1.1
2+ ethnicities 3.6
Data provided by Sedgwick County Metropolitan Planning Department.

According to election officials, Sedgwick County has not surpassed the threshold to provide ballots in other languages. Or at least, so they believe.

“There are legal requirements based on census data about what languages are required by each jurisdiction across the nation,” said Sedgwick County Election Commissioner, Tabitha Lehman. “Because of that, resources are not readily available to us. We do actively seek bi-lingual election workers and try to place them where the need will be greatest.”

Census data is used in many ways in elections. The data can be used to draw district boundaries for US Representative, State House, Senate, and even school districts. Right now, two-thirds of Kansas households have yet to respond to the U.S. Census according to the Lawerence Journal-World.

BE SEEN says it needs ambassadors to help spread their message to the Wichita Asian & Asian-American communities. If you’re interested in being an ambassador, connect with the group by filling out their survey located on their website.

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