South Bay politicians, multicultural media organizations aim to inform immigrant voters

- South Bay politicians and media organizations from Chinese, Indian and Filipino communities educated voters Friday night about housing, jobs and legislation affecting the future of Silicon Valley in preparation for Election Day.

Three panels staffed with ex-mayors, city council members, political candidates and parents dove into propositions and ballot measures voters will face in the coming months.

When discussing transportation, housing or schools, the discussion returned to the importance of the Bay Area's racial diversity and ensuring the increasingly expensive region is welcoming to groups of all income levels. 

Panelists, including local politicians Rod Sinks, Savitha Vaidhyanathan, Jose Esteves, Hung Wei and Chris Norwood, spoke about transit-oriented housing, aging infrastructure and mental health issues at competitive schools in the region.

When discussing development, transportation or education, the discussion returned to the importance of the Bay Area's racial diversity and ensuring the increasingly expensive region is welcoming to groups of all income levels. 

The League of Women Voters held a brief, 15-minute ballot review to touch on critical propositions, and explained to voters where they could find unbiased, succinct information about Bay Area legislation.

"I became a voter 12 years ago, but only about two years ago, I started paying attention," Diana Ding, founder of DingDing TV said. The Chinese language station teamed up with India Currents and The Filipino Channel to broadcast the voter education session.

DingDing TV operates on a mobile platform and distributes videos to community partners. About one hour into the event, Ding said over a hundred people were watching the panels.

India Currents founder Vandana Kumar said while immigrant voters may not trust mainstream media sources, they placed their trust in "ethnic" community media to inform them about the voting process.

"I remember when I first came here, I didn't understand the system," said Sophia Kao, Saratoga Union School Board candidate, describing herself as a "typical" first-generation immigrant who came the United States in the 90's. Kao said voting can seem daunting, but residents can start off with local issues, then move on to statewide legislation. " 1/8'Vote!' 3/8 is not just a slogan, it's a lifestyle," she said.

Fremont Unified School District President Yang Shao offered more direct advice. "Don't simply vote by race, because you need to understand how this candidate can help you," Shao said.

Y. Ray Hing, president of AMB China Ventures and an immigrant who came to the U.S. 51 years ago, stood up during a Q&A and said facetiously that he was "depressed" by the small group of about 35 people at the event. 

"I don't understand what this event is all about," he said.

He raised the question of voter engagement among Asian American communities -- only 18.4 percent of eligible Asian-American voters turned out to vote in the last election -- and asked panelists how they would engage voters.

"If you're depressed, join the club, we are too," Anthony Ng, executive director of Civil Leadership USA said. He explained DingDing would share the event broadly through community partners, and panelists echoed their goals of ramping up voter registration efforts through social media. 

"If you're not happy, don't get mad, get even -- by participating," Ng said.

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