(NEW YORK) — As the largest growing group of eligible voters in the United States, the Asian American Pacific Islanders vote will be crucial in the upcoming election. In an effort to harness that vote, several organizations are launching campaigns with influencers who have large AAPI followings to mobilize voters ahead of November.

Ameya Okamoto, a New York-based nail artist who specializes in bold, concept-driven sculpture nail art, is one of those influencers.

“I did nail art, kind of inspiring and calling to the Asian American community to kind of turn up for the midterms, which I think a lot of people don’t think enough about,” Okamoto said about one of her videos created for a campaign run by Run AAPI, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization.

Campaigns from groups such as Run AAPI and Asian American Futures are seeking to take advantage of the growing Asian American Native-Hawaiian Pacific Islander population in the U.S., which has grown 81% from 2000 to 2019. About 15 million Asian Americans are projected to be eligible to vote in 2024 — a number that has ballooned by 15%, or roughly 2 million voters, in the last four years, according to Pew Research Center. About 15 million Asian Americans are projected to be eligible to vote in 2024, Pew Research Center found.

This summer, these campaigns will especially look to recruit influencers with large AAPI followings in battleground states. Thao Nguyen, a Georgia-based TikToker with more than 400,000 followers, was recruited for a pilot version of Run AAPI’s summer campaign in 2022.

She used a “red flags” trend — describing a list of turnoffs — to bring up the topic of voting.

“No. 3: people who don’t care about politics. I don’t understand why people sit at home and complain about things that were different in their community when they could just go vote for somebody that stands for that,” she said in the video, which has more than 14,000 views.

Run AAPI Executive Director Linh Nguyen said the organization — as well as other similar organizations — are looking for influencers in areas with multiple AAPI candidates as well. She said they are looking to target areas such as Orange County, California, where Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel are both fighting to keep their seats and State Sen. Dave Min is looking to replace Rep. Katie Porter.

The hope, Linh Nguyen said, is to signal something bigger within the young AAPI community.

“Generally the younger Asian American community, like we are shaping everyday life, right?” she said. “And whether that’s shaping political life, political representation, how we see ourselves in entertainment, on the news, how we’re represented in so many other facets of life.”

For the 2023 midterm election, Linh Nguyen reached out to Okamoto, who lives near New York’s 3rd Congressional District. Asian American voters make up more than 20% of voters in the area, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

This February, Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, won that district’s congressional seat in a special election to replace ousted Republican Rep. George Santos. Souzzi’s campaign dedicated resources to reaching the AAPI community, which, Linh Nguyen said, highlights how candidates should be targeting growing, young diverse communities.

“They are the next generation of political thought leaders. They’re the ones who are going to change the whole policy landscape, how we think of governance,” Linh Nguyen said. “But it really does live online. And it’s exciting to see that come into play.”

Okamoto said she was grateful for the chance to be part of “something bigger” with her posts. She said she’s glad to use her platform to get out the AAPI vote, especially at a time when she’s finally feeling more proud of her Japanese heritage.

“A lot of my clientele are young Asian American girls and a lot of them find me through social media. And a lot of our conversations are about family and identity, and how we show up in the world physically, because that has kind of become a big part of my art practice,” Okamoto said. “What are the choices that you are allowed to make that feel empowering to you? Because we all deserve that.”

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