More than 300,000 Muslims have registered to vote since the 2012 presidential election, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the country’s largest Muslim advocacy organizations.
The estimate was conducted by looking for common Muslim names on the voter rolls. CAIR has launched a push to register more Muslim voters ahead of the 2016 elections.
There are currently 824,000 registered Muslim voters whose first, middle or last names match a list of more than 43,500 traditionally Muslim names, the group said. That’s compared to about 500,000 names in 2012, according to CAIR.
The council developed the list by working with community experts and consulting baby name websites, including those that are common in the Arabic and Turkish language, as well as in south Asian and central European countries.
A 2011 Pew Research Center survey estimated that there were 2.75 million Muslims in the U.S. with a large majority – 63% – of them being immigrants. There were about 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States in 2015, according to Pew.
Policy proposals like presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s temporary ban on Muslim immigrants and his recent suggestion that the U.S. consider profiling Muslims have upset many Muslim Americans, said Robert McCaw, the council’s director of government affairs.
“This is going to drive Muslims to assert themselves as American citizens the best way they know how and that’s to register to vote,” he said.
In June, the council launched “Muslims Vote,” a non-partisan voter campaign designed to increase Muslim participation in the 2016 election cycle by volunteering, registering to vote and hosting candidate forums among other initiatives. McCaw said CAIR is working with other groups to increase the Muslim vote and hopes to register thousands more Muslims by the elections.
Council leaders say the number of registered Muslim voters could be even higher as many converts to Islam maintain names not traditionally associated with the the Muslim faith. The group also does not include Muslims whose names are also common in other faiths like Sarah, Adam or Omar.
“This is just based on names. Some people may have Muslim names but not identify as Muslims, but we do still think it’s a very strong indicator of Muslim voter registration in the United States,” McCaw said.