Voting Strategies of Arizonian Muslims
By Arif Kazmi
We would like to share the strategy of the voting process that we, as Pakistani Americans and largely as Muslims, have followed in Arizona. The example, we will quote, is of the most populous county of Arizona, the Maricopa County, that has 1.8+ million overall registered voters.
Since the general election of the year 2000, our inclusion in major political party has benefited us in obtaining free of charge, the latest and most complete list of the 'over all voters' in the County prior to the major election date.
The 1.8 million voters-list contains name, address, telephone number, legislative district and other relevant information for each of the registered voter in the County.
A simple computer program was made that included a data base of 700+ known Pakistani names, such as Ahmed, Mohamed, Ali, Khan and so on. The program is applied on the 'over all voters list'. As a result, it has extracted from 12,300 in 2002 to 18, 858 in 2008 registered voters of our community who reside within the Maricopa County. The 18,858 community registered voters had at least one common name out of the above 700 + names, for example Ahmed Faryal, Moshraf Mohamed, Syed Balwal Ali, Mardan Khan and so on..
While some Muslim community members object that the community voters list is limited because it lacks all Muslim names, such as Turkish or Eastern Europeans, who have special spellings, we estimate that Pakistanis as well as most South Asian Muslims are well covered in this exclusive list. We acknowledge the limitedness of the list, yet are confident that this is the best available list of community voters prior to the election time.
Usually we obtain the community voter-list in the first week of October, about five weeks prior to the election date. Maricopa County being officially divided in 25 state legislative districts, we also find these boundaries of these 25 districts to be most convenient for sorting out our community list.
Depending on the density of the population, we conclude that each of the 25 legislative district has from about 500 to 1500 registered voters of our community. One political volunteer activist takes responsibility for every 500 voters that equate to about 170 house holds. This is not a difficult number for one volunteer to handle in the given final five weeks of the campaign.
During the first three weeks of the five weeks, political volunteers/activists make phone calls, emails (if e-address is available), mail post cards, and walk to the houses of the known registered voters to request them to vote early by mail.
In the final two weeks, information is obtained from the County election office or the Party office as to the households that have mailed in their ballots and therefore no further campaign is necessary for them. The target now are voters who have either not mailed and will GOTV (Get Out To Vote) on the election day (November 4). In any case, each volunteer keeps working on the community voter list until the election schedule.
The above strategy has increased voting percent of our community from 42 % in 2000 to over 80 % in 2008. It has activated several volunteers. who with their dedication, have now become political activists and have formed special relationships with their respective State legislatures and US Congressman.
During the course of the year, activists observe community issues such as at the motor vehicle division, university admissions, licenses, permits, employer sanctions, immigration, and so on. They are able to reach their district's elected officials to bring resolution. . Some of them have become precinct committee members, officials and attendees of the Party's monthly meetings. We trust that one day in the future, some of these activists will be candidates themselves.
(Arif Kazmi PE, PhD, is First Vice Chair of the Democratic Arizona Maricopa Party)