Asian Americans made their mark at the voting booth and on the ballot this year in Illinois. Community groups mobilized thousands of voters to the polls while Asian American elected officials made gains in the Illinois General Assembly.
The historic Election Day results showed two new Asian Americans will join Representative Theresa Mah in the Illinois General Assembly: Senator-elect Ram Villivalam and Representative-elect Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz. In addition, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi will return to Washington, D.C. for a second term.
“I’m thrilled to invite two more Asian Americans to the General Assembly starting in January,” said Rep. Theresa Mah, the first Asian American to be elected to the Illinois General Assembly. “Asian Americans across the state are building power and demanding justice alongside Black and Latinx communities. Together I am confident that the General Assembly will come together next session to protect our communities, and push an equitable agenda for all Illinoisans.”
Senator-elect Villivalam will be the first Asian American to serve in the Illinois Senate and first Indian American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly, representing 21 neighborhoods in the city of Chicago along with portions of Lincolnwood, Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Glenview, and unincorporated Des Plaines.
“I am proud to represent not only my district, but also be a representative of the South Asian American community and immigrant families looking to build a life here in Illinois,” said Senator-elect Villivalam. “Our families face injustices every day, and our community’s growing power means having a stronger voice in addressing the root causes that cause disparities in healthcare, employment, and income across the state.”
The Asian American community rallied behind a message of equity and justice for communities across the state of Illinois.
“Over the last month we spoke with thousands of voters who value their families at home and abroad, and believe in a more fair, equitable structure for our communities here in Illinois,” said Andy Kang, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. “While we’re invigorated by our community’s mobilization today, we know that voting is only one small part of civic engagement and that true change requires action throughout the year. Our next action will include overriding the veto of the VOICES Act in Illinois, and opposing federal changes to Public Charge rules.”
Advancing Justice | Chicago partnered with Indo American Center, Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment, Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, Vietnamese Association of Illinois, and Lao American Organization of Elgin this election season. Together they made 73,000 calls to registered voters in Illinois and monitored over 75 precincts to protect voting rights. Students at Lake View High School also conducted exit polling of voters at the school’s polling place.
“I early voted this election because I come from a refugee family and I wanted to make sure that refugees feel welcome and safe here in Illinois,” said Biniam, a first time voter from the Eritrean community and a Lake View High School student. “Even though most of my classmates are still learning English and cannot vote, I am making sure that our voices are heard.”
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