Filipino Americans, or Fil-Ams, are the second-largest Asian American group in the U.S., based on figures from the latest census. For this year's presidential election, millions of them are getting off the political fence to realize their potential as an electoral bloc, according to Maki Somosot '12, who recently delved into this issue for the social news network Rappler.
Somosot notes that the Fil-Am community has historically had lower voter turn-out, "so I came into the story thinking that Fil-Ams were not as politically active as other ethnic minorities," she says. "Little did I know that the previous influx of media coverage would lead me to simplify and underestimate the complexity of this issue. In a way though, I'm glad that I came into it the way I did, so I could provide a realistic and ultimately more interesting angle than the one currently circulating in the media."
Somosot believes that Fil-Ams could provide a swing vote in the election, which pits President Barack Obama against Governor Mitt Romney, but says that it depends on which swing state the hammer ultimately falls. "In states like Nevada and Virginia with large Filipino populations, it's more likely that they will be able to sway the vote than other minorities," she says. "But I'm not sure if they will have a significant enough impact in the larger national sense of the electoral count. I think what's important to note is it will take the vote of the Asian American population at large - not just of Fil-Ams - in order to impact the overall vote to a degree significant enough that will truly sway it in favor of one candidate or other."
Somosot earned a degree in psychology and French from Swarthmore and was awarded the Kaiser Health Reporting Fellowship at the Pulitzer-Prize winning Times-Picayune in New Orleans. She is now completing a fellowship in the healthcare group at Hill + Knowlton Strategies, a public relations firm in New York.