Chinatown: Ready for the 2019 municipal election

alt text By Jenny Shi, Environmental Health and Wellness Reporter, The Real Chi

Community groups in the greater Chinatown area announced a series of candidate forums Jan. 18 and encouraged community members to vote in the 2019 municipal election.

Along with 13 other community groups, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, revealed their strategy for cultivating an informed and engaged electorate for the 2019 election. This strategy includes the upcoming forums for the 25th ward alderman on Jan. 28 and for mayoral candidates on Feb. 11.

“Now we are only weeks away from the municipal election, which many people consider one of the most significant one in decades that we can remember, particularly in our community,” said C.W. Chan, the chairman of CBCAC.

By the end of 2018, 15 candidates remained in the Chicago mayor's race, and five candidates were running for the 25th ward alderman position. Neither of the races will see an incumbent competing to keep their seat.

“That makes this election more dynamic, more interesting, and I think it should generate a lot of interest from the community,” said Chan.

Located in the 25th ward, Chinatown is considered as the heart of the Chinese community in Chicago. According to the data on Census Tract 8411 (which approximates the boundaries of Chinatown’s core), 68.9 percent of the Chinatown population is foreign born, many of whom are recent immigrants.

Statistics from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners indicate that in the 2018 general election, Chicago had a 61 percent voter turnout. In comparison, voter turnout in Chinatown was only 37 percent. In the 2015 city elections, the turnout in Chinatown was 24 percent— ten percent lower than the city average.

In addition to candidate forums, CBCAC will continue mobilizing the community through phone banking, passing out pledge cards and knocking on doors to help the community understand the significance of the election process. To increase participation in the elections, the 25th ward candidate forum will have translation services available for Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.

Voting machines in Chinatown will also show all the ballots in four languages: English, Spanish, Chinese and Hindi. On the election day, Chinese paper ballots will be provided at the 61 Chinese precincts across Chicago.

“Our community has a lot of immigrants, so immigrants cannot vote. But once they become citizens, sometimes they only think about helping their relatives come over from Asia,” said David Wu, the executive director of the Pui Tak Center. “Sometimes people think that elections don't matter … but there's so many decisions at the local city level that affects our life.”