10 Interesting Facts about Vietnamese Americans, Voting, and the Upcoming Washington State Legislative Elections

With the State Senate and House primaries around the corner and candidate campaigns heating up, below are some quick facts and figures about the Vietnamese community in Washington State and the upcoming elections that can be used as a guide to help you select the right candidate before going to the polls this election cycle.

1. The Washington State Legislature is made up of elected representatives in two chambers (House & Senate) who create legislation that becomes law similar to their federal counterparts. It also approves the state budget and implement tax legislation.
If the Vietnamese community wants to see bills and laws that are responsive to its needs then it is imperative that voters show up at the ballots and vote for the candidate that will address these issues and concerns and work towards implementing such measures.

2. Elections for the office of Washington State Senate and House of Representatives will take place in 2018. A top-two primary election will be held on August 7, 2018, and the general election is on November 6, 2018.1
Keep in mind the deadlines for new voter registration for the primary is in July and the deadline for the general election is in October. Refer to the Washington Secretary of State website https://www.sos.wa.gov for exact dates and voter information. The voter’s guide for this site is also translated into Vietnamese.

3. The State Senate elections are held every 4 years with no term limits.2 Meanwhile members of the Washington House of Representatives serve two-year terms also with no term limits.3
Vietnamese Americans have historically voted Democratic. Democrats currently control both the House and the Senate. 24 Senate seats are up for election and all 98 House seats will be up for grabs in the upcoming 2018 general election. The elections could see a drastic shakeup in party control with several battleground races in both the House and Senate.

4. The Vietnamese population in the State Legislative Districts where the three Vietnamese candidates (Joe Nguyen, My-Linh Thai, & Savio Pham) are running is sizable. The population for District 34 is 3,893, District 41 3,291, and District 38 is 1796.4
As the Viet population in these districts continues to grow, new registered Viet voters could have an impact in the upcoming general elections.

5. The Vietnamese population in King County is 39, 772 5
The Asian population in the U.S. has been booming with a growth rate (43%) from 2000-2010. This is four times that of the total national population growth. The Vietnamese population in the U.S. increased 39% during that same timeframe according to the 2010 Census. Washington State’s Asian growth rate was at 52%.6 With this explosion in growth of the Vietnamese community in the U.S., the resulting growth in the voting age population may yield more registered voters. The rise in registered voters will likely make the state legislature more responsive and sensitive to the needs of the Vietnamese community, therefore the importance of the Vietnamese community voting cannot be understated.

6. 16.6% of all the Vietnamese in King County live below the poverty rate. (Source: Census Bureau American Community Survey 2011-2015)
A total of 6459 Vietnamese live below the poverty level according to the 2011-2015 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate. Within this group 30.5% are age 65 and older.7 Voting for the candidate who will support public assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and public funded health care such as Medicaid is vital to keep these services running.
(2007-2011 ACS)

7. The Vietnamese unemployment rate is 7.5% compared to 5.5% overall unemployment rate in King County.8 (Source: Census Bureau 2011-2015 American Community Survey)
Like most Americans job creation is a common concern for the Viet community. Candidates who have a broad plan to create jobs and reduce unemployment in their district will greatly affect the Vietnamese Community in Washington State.

8. There are 27, 668 Foreign Born Vietnamese in King County (Source: Census Bureau American Community Survey 2011-2013)9
The Vietnamese population in King County age 65 and over is 10%. Overall 54.2% reportedly do not speak English “very well” according to the 2011-2013 American Community Survey. Language barriers in terms of health care information translated into Vietnamese and voting instructions at ballots have been issues within the Vietnamese and overall Asian American community.10 Having such a large segment of the population who do not have mastery of English, the significance of pushing for legislation that removes these language barriers is very important in order for equal access to such programs.

9. Asian American voter turnout has been historically lower than other groups.11
It’s likely that the low turn out rate is due to the majority of the Asian population being foreign born. The call for new registered voters including young Vietnamese Americans can help define the issues that surround the Community in their legislative district. According to a 2014 exit poll by the National Asian American Legal Defense Fund and the 2016 National Asian American Survey, Asian American voters including Vietnamese view jobs, immigration issues, education, and health care as the top issues they are concerned with.

10. There are currently five Vietnamese American State Legislators in the U.S. The First Vietnamese American elected to the State Senate seat was Janet Nguyen of the 34th Senate District in California who was elected in 2014.12
More state representation from Vietnamese lawmakers can focus on legislation that directly impacts the Vietnamese American community in Washington State.

Thanh Bui has served active duty with the United States Navy for 12 years in the Intelligence field and is currently assigned to the USS Nimitz CVN-68 in Bremerton, WA. He has been a contributor to the United States Naval Institute magazine. In his spare time he has volunteered with Fare Start and Kitsap Food Bank.


1 “Dates and Deadlines,” WA Secretary of State, accessed May 09, 2018.

2 “Washington State Senate Elections 2018,” Ballotpedia, accessed May 10, 2018.

3 “Washington State House of Representative Elections 2018,” Ballotpedia, accessed May 10, 2018.

4 “Census 2010 Demographic Profile for Washington State Legislative District Summary,” Washington State Commission on Asian American Affairs, accessed on May 10, 2018.

5 “Census 2016 American Community Survey 1- Year Estimate,” United States Census Bureau, accessed May 10, 2018.

6 “The Asian Population 2010,” United States Census Bureau, accessed May 11, 2018.

7 “Census 2016 American Community Survey 1- Year Estimate,” United States Census Bureau, accessed May 11, 2018. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_16_1YR_S0201&prodType=table

8 “Selected Economic Characteristics,” Census 2011-2015 American Community Survey, United States Census Bureau, accessed May 11, 2018.

9 “Selected Population Characteristics,” Census 2011-2015 American Community Survey, accessed 12 May 2018. United States Census Bureau, accessed May 11, 2018.

10 “The Asian American Vote 2016,” Asian American Legal Defense Fund, accessed May 11, 2018.

11 Jens Manual Krogstad, “Asian American voter turnout lags behind other groups; some non-voters say they’re ‘too busy’,” last modified April 9, 2014.

12 “Janet Nguyen” Ballotpedia, accessed May 11, 2018.

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