By Joe Snell | May 2022 | Photo provided
A Chicago-based Assyrian political group last month appointed a new executive director. Ashur Shiba was named new chief of Vote Assyrian, effective immediately. He previously served as one of four executive board members. With the new role, he’s become the group’s first-ever executive director.
“We’ve lost quite a few board members over the years,” Shiba said, citing some members that have gone on to run for office or others that will serve as community center directors. “We had to have someone realign and restructure Vote Assyrian.”
Founded in 2015, the group began registering Assyrians to vote. Within one election cycle, it had reportedly registered almost 5,000 new voters, a large number for an area where just a few thousand votes can sway a local election.
As the organization grew, it started hosting candidate forums for both Assyrian and non-Assyrian candidates, and later organized workshops to certify community leaders as deputy registrars.
The group most notably led a 2020 campaign for the US census to encourage Assyrians to check the “Other” box under the Ethnicity category and to write in “Assyrian.” The initiative, aimed at recognizing Assyrians as a distinct ethnic group and to better understand community population figures, was formally recognized by the State Department.
Shiba, who joined Vote Assyrian in 2018, wants to steer the group back to its roots of registering and educating voters, especially about the importance of primary elections.
“People typically don’t vote in the primary elections, they vote in the general elections,” Shiba said. “The general election is very important, but picking a local board that runs the city you actually live in is just as important. We’re able to win more seats that way and we’re able to get more representation.”
The organization has big plans for the future, he said. By the end of this year, it hopes to reopen the Assyrian Chamber of Commerce and break the tape on a new Assyrian Mental Health and Drug Addiction Center.
“The opportunities in front of us are greater than ever, yet the challenges we face grow with every new opportunity,” Shiba said. “Non-Assyrians have started to take notice of us. Prior to Vote Assyrian, there weren’t any Assyrian elected officials in the area. Today, there are six in the Cook County area.”
Assyrians that hold elected office in the Chicagoland area
School Board President, District 219
Alderman of the 8th Ward
Board member, District 72
Trustee, Village of Golf
Former trustee of Morton Grove
Skokie Park District Commissioner
Trustee, Village of Lincolnwood