New York, NY—Seventy national and local Asian American and other civil rights organizations and advocates endorsed a letter to Congress supporting bipartisan legislation introduced today to renew the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The letter, circulated by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), supports an expansion of the Acts provisions for language assistance (Section 203) and enforcement (Section 5).
“The Voting Rights Act has been one of the most effective civil rights laws for the Asian American community. Expansion of the language assistance provisions is critical in removing barriers to the fundamental right to vote for all citizens who may not yet be fully proficient in English,” said AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung. AALDEF recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Asian American voters against the New York City Board of Elections, for its violations of the Voting Rights Acts language assistance provisions.
Section 203 of the Act now requires language assistance in Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and Vietnamese, in 16 counties in seven states. AALDEF staff attorney Glenn Magpantay said, “We support the legislation introduced today, but we also urge Congress to improve the bill by lowering the trigger for coverage to 5,000, from the current 10,000 voting-age citizens who speak the same language, and are limited-English proficient.”
Lowering the trigger would remove barriers to voting for Asian American citizens from three language minority groups: Cambodian, Thai, and Asian Indian. A change in the numerical trigger would result in an increase from five to eight Asian languages, and the number of covered jurisdictions would increase from 16 to 21. Asian American voters in two new states, Virginia and Maryland, would be entitled to language assistance under the Voting Rights Act. Lowering the trigger will also benefit Latinos and would add 29 new jurisdictions covered for Spanish-language assistance, for a total of 246, up from 217.
Among the letters signatories are Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, and the National Asian Pacific American Womens Forum.
For more information, please read AALDEFs backgrounder, Lowering the Numerical Trigger to Improve the Effectiveness of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act at: https://aaldef.netlify.com/uploads/pdf/AALDEF_S203trigger.pdf.