Ya Arab America, It's Urgent: Yalla Vote!
#YallaVote volunteers register voters in South Carolina.
Heba Mohammad/Arab America Contributing Writer
On November 6th, Americans will head to the polls en masse for the final day of voting in the 2018 Midterm Election.
Undoubtedly, there is a lot at stake for every American community, and this is especially true for the Arab American community. The outcome of this election will determine who makes critical decisions on policies that disproportionately impact Arab Americans, and the urgency of this reality requires every eligible voter to turn out to vote and assert their priorities at the ballot box.
Already we have seen record numbers of individuals participating in early voting, a sign of increased awareness of, and enthusiasm for, the impact of this year’s elections. For Arab Americans, there is added excitement due to high profile races with Arab American candidates who not only share an inherent connection with this constituency but who are highlighting policies and challenges everyday Arab Americans care about and experience.
One of the challenges candidates are facing is that voters find commonality in is the elevated levels of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry they are facing from opponents.
Over fifty percent of Arab Americans have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity, and the unfounded assaults on the community’s leading public figures reflect the daily struggle Arab Americans face. If we heed the lessons of the past, the response to today’s bigotry must include mobilization and turn out to support candidates who recognize, respect, and represent Arab Americans.
It was only a handful of decades ago that Dearborn, Michigan, home to the country’s most densely populated Arab American community, had fewer than one thousand registered Arab American voters. With minimal political influence to lose, politicians made quick work of scapegoating the community. It took years of education, mobilization, and turn out to reach the point where Arab Americans account for five percent of Michigan’s vote. That margin decides elections.
The Arab American vote plays an important role in several states’ election outcomes, and maintaining this level of influence requires regular turnout for every election.
Ninety-one percent of Arab Americans said they would vote in the 2016 presidential election, and the community’s turnout in presidential years regularly outperforms the national average. That’s something to be proud of!
The challenge is carrying that reliable turnout into midterm elections when voters don’t readily believe these elections will impact their lives as significantly as presidential elections. This is simply untrue.
This election will impact policy on jobs & the economy; the increase in hate crimes; education funding; warrantless surveillance; democracy reforms; healthcare access; free speech; immigration policy; profiling; and foreign policy.
Don’t be surprised if you’re thinking, “Huh, I care about some of that stuff,” because these are the policy priorities of the Arab American community. There’s no overstating it: this election will affect you.
It’s in your best interest to be an active participant in deciding what affects you, and that means voting on Tuesday, November 6th. In doing so, you are making your voice heard in a process that only works if we raise our voices together.
In preparation for Election Day, make a plan to vote.
You should confirm your voter registration status, find your polling location, and ensure you have any necessary identification, all of which you can do at www.vote.org. If you’re more inclined to vote early (so you can volunteer on election day to get out the vote!), you can quickly find out if your state offers early voting using this handy map & table.
Once you have all the information you need, commit to voting by determining when you’ll vote and how you’re getting there, and sticking to those plans.
Voting is easy, and there are a number of resources available to make the process as simple as possible for voters. Any voter who needs election-related support on or before Election Day can call the following hotlines:
- 866-OUR-VOTE: English only services administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law;
- 888-Ve-Y-Vota: Spanish/English language services administered by the NALEO Educational Fund;
- 888-API-VOTE: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Bengali, Hindi & Urdu language services administered by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC; and
- 844-YALLA-US: Arabic/English language services administered by the Arab American Institute.
This significance of this election will resonate for generations to come, and our community has worked hard to overcome the politics of exclusion to sit out now.
Heba Mohammad is a field organizer with the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC.