On Election Day, Tuesday, November 8th, the civil rights group Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) will dispatch approximately 250 volunteer poll monitors to document incidents of voter discrimination in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to assess compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act mandates language assistance in certain localities and forbids anti-Asian voter discrimination. In Edison, NJ, and Boston, MA, AALDEF reported voting problems Asian Americans encountered in the 2004 elections to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has intervened to ensure that those municipalities guarantee the rights of Asian American voters in 2005.
AALDEF will monitor approximately 80 poll sites in three states on Nov. 8th:
New York City:
AALDEF and a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups will be monitoring elections and conducting a non-partisan voter survey at poll sites in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. Asian American voters will be surveyed in over 15 Asian languages and dialects. At numerous polling sites throughout New York City, AALDEF monitors reported that polling places were understaffed and unable to provide assistance to Asian-language voters who needed interpreters, contributing to long lines outside polling places. Under section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act, three boroughs in New York City are required to staff polling sites with Chinese- and Korean-language interpreters; severe shortages were reported at many poll sites.
AALDEF will be monitoring elections and conducting a non-partisan voter survey in Edison, Palisades Park, and Jersey City.
Edison: AALDEF alerted DOJ about racist anti-Asian remarks made by talk radio hosts about an Asian American mayoral candidate before the 2005 primary election. The DOJ also documented Edison poll workers behaving in an overtly hostile manner to Asian American voters during the primaries. Notably, a third of the town’s population is Asian American.
Boston: A court settlement issued last month requires the City of Boston to provide Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish language assistance to voters in compliance with the Voting Rights Act in the Nov. 8th elections. AALDEF and coalition volunteers in 24 precincts in Boston will evaluate the availability of first-ever Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballots and voter notices. AALDEF initiated an inquiry with the DOJ earlier this year against the City of Boston after detailing widespread non-compliance with the Voting Rights Act in the 2004 elections.
Lowell: AALDEF will ensure that new citizen voters, especially the Cambodian American community, appear in the voter rolls, and not be turned be turned away from poll sites without being offered provisional ballots, as occurred in the 2004 elections.
Glenn D. Magpantay, AALDEF staff attorney, said, “Guaranteeing equal access to the vote for all citizens—40 years after the Voting Rights Act—requires the critical partnership of communities and government to ensure compliance with the law. AALDEF followed up on irregularities in the 2004 elections to persuade local governments to comply fully with federal law. On Tuesday, we will make sure those measures were meaningful.”
The 2005 Elections mark the 18th year that AALDEF has conducted non-partisan poll monitoring. For more information about Voting Rights Act, please see Executive Director Margaret Fung’s recent testimony before the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act.
Co-Sponsors of the 2005 AALDEF Elections Monitoring are:
- New York: Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian American Bar Association of New York, Chinatown Voter Education Alliance, Project Impact, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, Korean American Voters’ Council of NY/NJ, YKASEC: Empowering Korean American Community.
- Massachusetts: Family Unity of Lowell, ONE Lowell, Asian Pacific American Agenda Coalition, Greater Boston Legal Services/Asian Outreach Unit, Boston Asian Students Alliance, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, Chinese Progressive Association, Vietnamese American Initiative for Development, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
- New Jersey: Korean American Voters’ Council of NY/NJ, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, NJ Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, NJ Election Protection & Integrity Project, ACLU of NJ Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, People for the American Way.