New York, NY … The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 34-year old civil rights organization, today released a new report detailing several obstacles faced by Asian American voters in nine states in the November 2006 Midterm Elections.
AALDEF’s report, Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2006 Elections, documents violations of the Voting Rights Act and Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and other incidents of anti-Asian voter disenfranchisement in 25 cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The report is available online here.
Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director, said: “As states prepare for the 2008 Presidential Elections, we urge election officials to remove the barriers that prevent Asian American citizens from exercising their right to vote.”
On Nov. 7, 2006, AALDEF monitored 172 poll sites in 9 states and conducted a multilingual exit poll of over 4,700 Asian American voters. AALDEF received more than 200 complaints of voting barriers, which are described in the report. They include:
Poll workers made improper or excessive demands for identification-often only from Asian American voters-and misapplied HAVA’s ID requirements. In Boston, an interpreter appointed by the Elections Department required all Chinese-speaking voters to show IDs before they could receive a translated ballot; none of the English-speaking voters were similarly asked for their IDs.
Poll workers hindered voter access to interpreters and translated voting materials required under the Voting Rights Act. In New York, Chinese American voters were given Spanish-language ballots.
Asian American voters’ names were missing or incorrectly transcribed in voter lists at poll sites. HAVA requires that these voters be offered provisional ballots, but poll workers denied voters this right. In New Jersey, poll workers told Asian American voters to go to the Borough Clerk’s office.
Poll workers were unable to direct voters to their proper poll sites or precincts. In Philadelphia, one voter was driven to tears after being sent to several places and given no correct addresses. In New York, a husband and wife were improperly sent to different lines at different election districts within the same poll site.
AALDEF sent complaint letters to local election officials that detailed these voting obstacles and offered recommendations for improvements. AALDEF staff attorney Glenn D. Magpantay said, “Our findings demonstrate that vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is still needed.” Copies of the report and complaint letters were sent to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Voting Section for further investigation.
On January 9, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two challenges to the constitutionality of voter identification requirements, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita. AALDEF submitted an amicus brief to the Court, citing results from its 2004 and 2006 election monitoring efforts. AALDEF’s brief contends that voter ID laws disenfranchise Asian Americans and prevent racial and language minorities from exercising their fundamental right to vote. The amicus brief can be downloaded here.
In the last Presidential Election, AALDEF polled nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states about Election Day problems at the polls. Plans for AALDEF’s 2008 multilingual exit poll and election monitoring project will be announced soon.
The following co-sponsors worked with AALDEF to mobilize almost 600 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to participate in the 2006 election monitoring effort.
Asian Pacific Islander American Vote
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
Organization of Chinese Americans
People For the American Way Foundation
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Asian American Bar Association of New York
Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley
Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
Asian Bar Association of Washington
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center – DC
Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
Chinatown Voter Education Alliance – NY
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia
Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership – DC
Filipino American Human Services, Inc. – NY
Greater Boston Legal Services, Asian Outreach Unite
Korean American League for Civic Action – NY
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center – IL
Korean American Voters’ Council of NY & NJ
ONE Lowell – MA
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
YKASEC-Empowering the Korean American Community – NY
The Sikh Coalition – NY
South Asian Youth Action! – NY
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development – MA
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association chapters across the country.
For more information:
Glenn D. Magpantay, Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 206
Margaret Fung, Executive Director
212.966.5932 ext. 201