Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign is working overtime to maximize primary voter turnout in an often overlooked but potentially powerful bloc -- Asian Americans.
"Our goal is to take Bernie's electability message to [Asian American and Pacific Islander] voters in an effective, persuasive way," said Supreet Kaur, who serves as the National Asian American and Pacific Islanders Organizer for the Sanders campaign, in an interview with ABC News.
According to Kaur, the campaign's efforts in reaching these voters is much like the campaign's overarching strategy; it's about grassroots organizing that builds on inroads made during Sanders' 2016 run.
"He has been doing this for quite some time," said Kaur. "In 2020, we have just been able to take it to the next level with the sheer amount of support we have."
With a sophisticated network of Asian American and Pacific Islander volunteers and organizers, campaign officials believe building a coalition of support can make a big difference in diverse, delegate-rich states like California, where Asian Americans make up 15% of the population, according to U.S. Census data.
Asian American and Pacific Islander voters could potentially have more influence on the 2020 primaries than in previous years, especially in California, where mail-in ballots are set to begin being counted on Feb. 3, 2020 – the same day as the Iowa caucuses.
According to Pew research, an estimated 11 million Asian Americans will be eligible to vote in 2020, which is more than double the amount of those who were able to vote at the beginning of the decade. Overall, Pew estimates that "Asians will account for five percent of next year's electorate."
The Sanders campaign has tapped several Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders to prominent roles.
Faiz Shakir, Sanders' campaign manager, is Pakistani American; California U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, who was born to Indian immigrants, is a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign; Jane Kim, a former San Francisco supervisor and the first Korean American elected official in the city's history, serves as the campaign's California political director. The campaign has also secured state and local endorsements from Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials in several states.
For some like Jenny Wong, city auditor of Berkeley, California, and a Sanders endorser, seeing Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders holding key positions on his campaign staff signals that Sanders, if elected, would also bring racial diversity to his administration.
"I have no doubt that Bernie will appoint qualified people of color into his administration -- that's what he's doing throughout his campaign," said Wong. "And representation matters, right? People making decisions on behalf of other people like them is how democracy should work."
"Seeing Asian elected officials campaigning for a candidate matters in Asian communities," said Stephanie Quilao, a Filipina American 2016 delegate for Sanders, who uses the social media moniker "The Bern Identity" to make her case for senator's 2020 presidential bid.
The Sanders campaign has made campaign materials accessible in six Asian languages: Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hindi and Punjabi. By ABC News' tally, that is more than any other campaign. Fluent volunteers also help craft scripted appeals to prospective voters to ensure Sanders' messaging isn't lost in translation.
"We are meeting people where they are and in the language they speak," said Anna Bahr, a spokesperson for the campaign.
He's proven that he can galvanize not only millions of Americans, but expand the electorate and get to voters who have been ignored and marginalized
The campaign is additionally making a push for Asian American and Pacific Islander volunteers to hold house parties to organize their networks for Sanders.
Sanders isn't the only Democratic primary candidate investing in outreach to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, has hosted caucus training in Tagalog in Nevada. Sen. Elizabeth Warren tapped longtime adviser Roger Lau to manage her campaign, and Warren volunteers organized a meet-up for Asian American supporters in North Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign, with the help of Director of Surrogates and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, launched "AAPIs for Biden" in late October with a Las Vegas caucus training event.
The moves are all unfolding in an election cycle that has seen a greater number of high-profile Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates in the presidential field: Andrew Yang was born to Taiwanese immigrants, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is of Southeast Asian, Polynesian and Caucasian descent, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who ended her presidential bid, is of Indian and Jamaican heritage.
Republicans have also sought a degree of outreach to the voting bloc. President Donald Trump, who lost New Hampshire by less than 3,000 votes, held a campaign event in that state in English and Vietnamese.
The Sanders campaign is also engaging with Asian American and Pacific Islander grassroots organization to shape their policy plans. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Sanders campaign boasts the highest number of volunteers in the state, the campaign has focused efforts on messaging around affordable housing -- an issue that Kim said is of particular importance to Asian American voters.
In June, Jane Sanders, Sen. Sanders' wife and likely most influential adviser, met with Chinese tenants' rights group Community Tenants Association and toured housing projects built to serve the Chinese community in San Francisco.
"Their No. 1 issue was affordable housing for seniors," Kim said, adding that needs from the organization were incorporated into Sanders' "Housing for All" affordable housing plan.
Additionally, campaign officials tell ABC News Sanders' education and immigration plans are well received by Asian American and Pacific Islander voters.
"Sen. Sanders' platform naturally resonates in the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community because of, No. 1, making higher education affordable. This issue is very important to the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community," Kim said.
Quilao, meanwhile, says Sanders' immigration plan is particularly attractive especially as she has family in the Philippines who have waited years to come to the United States but have been unable to because of a massive backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Sanders' plan aims to eliminate the backlog and provide legal status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients and their parents.
"He acknowledged there's a lot of backlog and we're going to fix that, because people shouldn't be waiting decades," Quilao said, calling the inclusion of parents of children who fall under DACA "just remarkable."
The Asian American and Pacific Islander Sanders supporters that spoke with ABC News said his platform and electability are appealing.
"He's proven that he can galvanize not only millions of Americans, but expand the electorate and get to voters who have been ignored and marginalized," said Quilao.
Sanders' perceived authenticity and decades-long congressional record, in tandem with outreach to Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, make him the candidate to support, according to the supporters ABC News spoke with.
"Here's someone who is actually speaking out for us and defending us and giving us a platform -- and giving us power," Texas Sanders volunteer Gemini Wahhaj said.