AALDEF Poll Monitoring Shows Violations of Asian American Voting Rights in NY, NJ, VA, PA, GA, MA
October 31, 2012 — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging the Attorney General to assign attorneys and appoint federal observers to monitor the elections on November 6, 2012, for practices that may infringe on the ability of Asian Americans to exercise their right to vote, as well as to ensure the full force of the nation’s voting protections under federal laws.
AALDEF has monitored several prior elections for compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act. Last week, AALDEF released a new report documenting the many obstacles faced by Asian American voters during the Presidential Primary Elections in early 2012. AALDEF received several complaints of barriers to voting in numerous jurisdictions across the country, the most severe of which are highlighted in the report.
Furthermore, in the last Presidential Election, AALDEF polled nearly 16,665 Asian American voters in eleven states about Election Day problems at the polls, and received hundreds of complaints. This Presidential Election, AALDEF is expanding its effort to 14 states.
“Voting rights violations continue to threaten Asian American voters,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program Director. “AALDEF has documented these widespread problems in past elections as recently as the Presidential Primary in 2012. The Justice Department must take steps to ensure that Asian Americans can exercise their right to vote.”
AALDEF requested that the U.S. Department of Justice monitor the election in the following jurisdictions:
- Queens County, New York for Bengali language assistance under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.
The New York City Board of Elections has refused to provide translated ballots in Bengali for the past four elections and will be unable to translate ballots for the November 6 election, in violation of federal law. The Board offered to provide translated sample ballots, but there is little assurance that such translated sample ballots will even be at poll sites for Bengali-speaking voters to access.
- Bergen County, New Jersey for Korean language assistance under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.
The large Korean American population in Bergen County has been covered under the language assistance provision of the Voting Rights Act since October of 2011, but during the Presidential Primary Election, ballots were not fully translated, poll sites were missing required interpreters, and bilingual signs were missing, among further federal law violations.
- Fairfax County, Virginia to guard against partisan interference with Korean Americans’ exercise of their right to vote.
Following the 2006 election, AALDEF urged the Fairfax County Board of Elections to investigate an incident where a partisan campaign worker allegedly tricked elderly Korean American voters into voting for a particular candidate. This fraud could have been averted with translated voting registration forms, absentee ballot applications, and Voter Bill of Rights statements in Korean.
- Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania to guard against nondiscriminatory application of voter photo identification requirements.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania enacted a new voter photo identification law. Although a state court blocked Pennsylvania’s discriminatory new voter ID law from being implemented on November 6, poll workers might still seek to apply the law and deny Asian Americans the right to vote. In past elections, AALDEF monitored polls in Philadelphia and Bensalem and observed inappropriate ID checks of voters.
- Greater Atlanta, Georgia for nondiscriminatory application of voter proof of citizenship requirements.
Georgia’s new proof of citizenship law will have a disproportionate impact on Asian American voters, a large percentage of whom are foreign-born naturalized citizens. Following the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that Arizona’s new law violates the National Voter Registration Act, federal monitoring will guard against the disenfranchisement of Asian American voters in Georgia.
- Lowell, Massachusetts for provisional ballots under the Help America Vote Act.
During the last two Presidential Elections, many Cambodian American voters reported that their names were missing from voting lists located at poll sites. Poll workers directed the voters to go to City Hall to confirm their registration or to cast provisional ballots there, rather than providing provisional ballots at poll sites.
AALDEF submitted complaint letters that detail all of these observations to local elections officials, yet the jurisdictions have done little to remedy the violations of law. AALDEF now asks the Justice Department to send attorneys and federal observers to monitor the election. AALDEF will be dispatching over 800 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to 14 states to document voter problems on November 6.
Download AALDEF’s Letter to the Justice Department >
Glenn D. Magpantay
Democracy Program Director
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.