Despite being the fastest-growing demographic group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are dramatically underrepresented in elected office and particularly in the criminal justice sector, reports Politico. A Tuesday report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign revealed that AAPI members made up just 0.9 percent of elected leaders across all levels of government, but 6.1 percent of the population as of mid-2020. The Campaign calculated the differential in political representation relative to the population for each racial and ethnic group. AAPI people were the most under-represented group, by a factor of -85 percent, while white people were overrepresented by +46 percent.
The dearth of AAPI representation is the starkest in the criminal justice sector, which has been in the spotlight given ongoing conversations of police reform, solidarity and incarceration. Over-policing affects Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who are much more likely to be incarcerated than white people in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian Americans are at least three times more likely than other immigrants to be deported due to past criminal convictions, according to the report. Greater representation will lead to policy change for the most vulnerable AAPIs and take into account the diversity of the community, but AAPI candidates often have a hard time getting on the ballot because of how parties and big donors guard endorsements and required resources.