by Heidi M. Pascual
Intern Spotlight: Claire Nguyen
Meet Claire Nguyen, one of our interns for our 2020 Summer Intern
class! Claire (she/her) is a second-generation Vietnamese American
undergraduate at Penn, majoring in History with minors in Asian American
Studies and English. She has immersed herself in several Southeast Asian
American spaces including the Penn Vietnamese Students’ Association,
VietLead’s Civic Empowerment and Census Field Teams, and UC Berkeley’
s Southeast Asian Student Coalition. She currently sits on Penn’s Asian
American Studies program’s Undergraduate Advisory Board as co-chair and
is in the inaugural class of the Penn Asian American Studies Fellows, with
whom she is researching Asian American and Pacific Islander incarceration
Q: What made you want to work with APIAVote?
I have been involved in electoral organizing locally in Philadelphia as an
issue lead on VietLead's Civic Empowerment Team and a canvasser on
their 2020 Census Field Team. However, I wanted to better understand how
a national organization like APIAVote organizes on a larger scope. I have had
a few friends previously intern at APIAVote, and they all had wonderful
experiences, so I decided to apply. I was actually supposed to study abroad
in London this summer, but due to COVID-19, the study abroad program was
suspended. I may not be sipping tea by the Thames, but working with
APIAVote staff during a crucial year for civic engagement has been
awesome! Being behind the scenes during the Presidential Town Hall and
Leadership Summit was super cool.
Q: Name one memorable experience you had with us.
With Chris, our field associate, I have been working on a Census education curriculum for NCAPA that has incorporated some bits of Ethnic Studies
in the social studies section of the curriculum. Chris and I were able to pilot the curriculum in a classroom in Tacoma, Washington, and it was really
fun and exciting for me to come up with activities and to implement them in the classroom. My mom, a Vietnamese refugee, was actually first
resettled in Tacoma. While building the curriculum for the pilot, I learned a lot from Chris (who is from the Tacoma area) about local history in
Tacoma, and this really encouraged me to learn more about my family history, especially the lesser known things like what it was like to be one of
two Vietnamese families in all of Tacoma during the 1970s. I am very passionate about making Ethnic Studies more accessible, and it was great to
do this through Census Education while also learning more about my family history.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
I love to cook with copious amounts of garlic. Nothing beats the smell of sizzling garlic and onion in hot oil. I also love to watercolor paint. I am a
very impatient person, so watercolor painting is one way for me to meditate and practice patience. This summer, I have been helping my mom
garden, and I harvest cherry tomatoes every evening. That has been a favorite summer activity of mine.
Honoring Representative John Lewis
We are saddened by the recent passing of Representative John Lewis. A civil rights icon and an ardent leader, Rep. John Lewis was a passionate
supporter of protecting our right to vote.
"My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” He once said
in a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina back in 2012. He worked to protect the vote for everyone and was an advocate for Black and minority
communities across the nation. He was, and will continue to be, an inspiration to the AAPI community as we work towards an equitable and
We will miss his lifelong passion for justice and we will strive to keep his legacy alive by continuing to fight for a fair and equal vote.
In honor of Representative John Lewis's lifelong fight to protect the vote, this week we are highlighting the Voting Rights Act and why it is so
important in maintaining a free and equal democracy.
What is the Voting Rights Act?
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) was originally passed in 1965 to ensure that American citizens are not denied the right to vote based on their race,
color, or membership in a minority language group by state or local governments.
In 2013, The Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder which determines which states and localities are deemed
to have a history of discrimination and therefore must obtain approval before changing any voting rules for that district. This rule of acquiring
approval prior to changing voting rules is known as "preclearance" and is covered under Section 5 of the VRA.
This means that because Section 4 — which determines which states and localities must abide by Section 5 — has been invalidated by the
Supreme Court, Congress must pass a new rule to determine which states and localities would need to have "preclearance." With Section 4
eliminated, many states that were previously subject to Section 5 are no longer restrained by "preclearance."
Why is it important?
This means that many states with a history of discrimination at the
polls are now ushering in new attempts to restrict voting rights.
There have been high profile cases of voter suppression in states like
Georgia and failed attempts by Congress to restore the Voting Rights
Act. We must guarantee equal access to polls regardless of race,
socioeconomic status or culture and we must expand language
access so everyone is able to vote.
How do I learn more?
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act highlights your right to have an
interpreter at the polls and lists areas that are required to provide in-
language materials at the polls.
To make sure you are registered or learn more about your state, visit