Students Promote Voter Registration
On September 27, 2003, alumni from IACPA's (Indian American Center for Political Awareness) Washington Leadership Program (WLP) conducted a highly successful voter registration drive at the annual Gujarati Samaj Garba in Atlanta. This annual event attracts several thousand people from all over the southeastern United States. The WLP offers internships on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to many outstanding Indian-American students. Participants in the program work in Congressional offices and attend meetings and functions set up by IACPA that expose them to the inner workings of politics, public policy and government. All three participants claimed that this program taught them the value and importance of voting and political activism.
Several students from local high schools and area colleges joined the organizers, Harin Contractor, Sophie Qureshi and Sundeep Sood, in this drive. Contractor explains that "having young people lead this drive is a sign to the entire community that the second generation is ready to take on the challenges that face our community." Sood, who stated that only about 30% of Indian-Americans are registered to vote according to the census data, explained the need for this effort. "We believe one of the major reasons why the Indian-American community is lacking in political clout is because of our lack of voter turnout," he said. Qureshi echoed this by saying, "Campaign donations can only do so much. We need to demonstrate that we have the votes to back this up."
In registering people to vote, organizers also stressed to community members the importance of going out and voting on Election Day. Flyers that were passed out touched on some important issues that can be influenced by voting, such as hate crimes, immigration reform and education. The successful drive registered over fifty Indian-Americans to vote, and was nearly double the local government's previous high of thirty names in a single registration drive.
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