Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund Announces National Voter Complaint Hotline (800.966.5946), Election Day Poll Monitoring and Multilingual Exit Polls in Five States
Washington, DC—On August 6, the 39th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 30-year old New York-based civil rights organization, announced a new project to safeguard the voting rights of Asian Americans in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois in the November 2004 elections. AALDEF will monitor hundreds of polling sites to document incidents of voter discrimination on Election Day and, for the first time, will expand its multilingual exit poll of Asian American voters to five states.
AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said, “In the 2000 elections, Asian Americans faced an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote. With the dramatic increase in new citizens and first-time voters and the new voting requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), we want to ensure that all Asian American voters can participate fully in the electoral process this November.” Election Day activities include:
**MULTILINGUAL VOTER HOTLINE
**A national voter hotline, 800.966.5946, will be set up to receive complaints of voter discrimination, intimidation, and denial of language assistance. Telephone assistance will be provided in Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Toisanese), Korean, Tagalog, Hindi, Punjabi, and English.
AALDEF will monitor elections in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois for Asian-language ballots, interpreters and other voting materials required under section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, anti-Asian voter discrimination, and proper implementation of HAVA’s new voter identification and verification requirements, which will be in full effect in November.
Five hundred attorneys, law students, and volunteers will cover 150 polling sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, NY and Chicago, IL, where federal law requires Chinese- and Korean-language ballots and assistance; in Boston, Dorchester and Lowell, MA; Edison, Jersey City and Palisades Park, NJ; and Hamtramck, MI, just outside of Detroit, where there has been a history of voter intimidation and racist remarks made by elected officials against Asian Americans.
AALDEF staff attorney Glenn D. Magpantay said, “In 2000, as the nation focused on voting problems in Florida, in New York City ballots flipped the translated party headings with Democrats listed as Republicans and vice versa; interpreter shortages led to Asian voters being turned away because there was no one to assist them; and poll workers were rude, hostile, and made racist remarks about Asian American voters and their English proficiency. We will guard against the disenfranchisement of new citizens and first-time voters in November."
MULTILINGUAL EXIT POLLS
Asian American voters will be surveyed in over 15 Asian languages and dialects about their preferences in the Presidential election, party affiliations, first-time voting, and post-September 11 discrimination. Voters will also be asked about election irregularities, problems experienced at the polls, and the need for bilingual ballots.
The exit polls reveal vital information about Asian American voting patterns that is often overlooked in mainstream voter surveys. AALDEF has conducted exit polls of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988, noting the growing involvement especially of new citizens in the electoral process.
Over 5,000 Asian New Yorkers in the 2000 Presidential election were surveyed in AALDEF’s multilingual exit polls, and 3,000 Asian American voters in four states were polled in the 2002 midterm elections.
The 2000 exit poll in New York found that 79% voted for Democrat Al Gore, 19% for Republican George W. Bush, and 1% for Ralph Nader. In the 2002 midterm elections, 65% voted for Republican incumbent Governor George Pataki, but only 22% gave favorable ratings to President Bush, with 70% of Asian Americans ranking his performance “average” or “poor.”
AALDEF’s exit polls found that since 1992, there has been a steady increase in Democratic enrollment among Asian Americans polled (40% in 1992; 52% in 1996; 58% in 2000), as well as a drop in voters who did not join any political party (29% in 1992 and 1996; 26% in 2000). Republican enrollment has also been declining among Asian Americans polled (25% Republican in 1992; 20% in 1996; 14% in 2000).
In the 1996 Presidential election, Voter News Service (VNS) reported that Asian Americans favored Republican candidate Bob Dole over Bill Clinton by 48% to 43%. By contrast, community exit polls in New York and California found that Asian American voters supported Clinton by wide margins—up to 75% in immigrant neighborhoods. The VNS sample contained only 170 Asian Americans nationwide, out of 16,000 voters polled, and was conducted only in English. VNS later supplemented its national poll with state polling data and found that 53% of Asian Americans supported Clinton, with 40% voting for Dole. VNS was disbanded after the 2000 election debacle.
AALDEF will partner with a variety of groups to mobilize 500 volunteer attorneys, law students, college students and community activists in five states on Election Day. The groups include: Asian American Bar Association of New York, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, South Asian American Voting Youth, Chinatown Voter Education Alliance, Korean American Voters Council, Boston Asian Student Alliance, National Asian American Student Convention, and Asian Pacific American Law Student Association chapters across the country.