On the East Side of St. Paul, Xai David Yang, a practitioner of the art of getting out the vote, was looking for fellow Hmong to vote for Matt Entenza.
How does he increase his chances of finding a Hmong home?
“We look at the cars, the gardens,” Yang said. “You see the Toyotas, Hondas. We look at the side of the homes to see gardens, looking for green onions, cilantro, pumpkins.”
He points out a home with a red cloth hanging in the top of the storm door. "That's...to keep out the spirits. A shaman will have those."
And he asks the first Hmong he finds to identify others living nearby.
Yang, a senior at St. Cloud State University, knocks on a door and a young woman answers. He explains in Hmong what he’s doing – occasional lapsing into English political idioms like “makes a difference” -- and hands her an Entenza flyer. The woman looks confused. Yang tells her the governor’s job is to represent the entire state.
Yang said he hoped to hit 120 Hmong homes on Saturday, pressing a message that Entenza is an ally to them in improving government aid for education and employment.
It is part of a broader Entenza strategy to make a special push to identify minority supporters and make sure they vote. While they comprise a small slice of the Minnesota electorate, Entenza believes they could make a big difference in an election where turnout is expected to be exceptionally low.
For Yang, that means focusing on fellow Hmong and encouraging those who seem receptive to Entenza to go to the polls or vote absentee before Tuesday.
Saturday on the East Side, his method of identification usually worked well. But not always.
At one home he saw both a Toyota and a garden, but when a girl answered the door, Yang said, “Oh, this is a Karen house,” referring to another ethnic group in Southeast Asia. “Sorry.”
“We’re targeting Hmong,” he told a reporter, saying it's the most efficient way for him to reach Entenza voters. “We’re using our time wisely.”
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