Press Release

Over 100 Groups Urge Congress to Renew and Expand the Voting Rights Act

AALDEF Sends Nearly 1,000 Postcards from 15 States to Lead Officals

As the House of Representatives takes up Voting Rights Act legislation this week, 114 national and local Asian American and other civil rights organizations have endorsed a letter to Congress supporting bipartisan legislation to renew the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Today, nearly 1,000 postcards from 15 states were also delivered to congressional leaders. The letter and postcards, circulated by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), support an expansion of the Acts provisions for voter language assistance (Section 203) and enforcement (Section 5).

“The Voting Rights Acts language assistance and enforcement provisions are critical in removing barriers to the fundamental right to vote for all citizens,” said AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung. AALDEF testified regarding the need to renew Section 203 before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and before the House Judiciary Committee last fall.

In addition to Spanish and Native American languages, Section 203 of the Act currently requires language assistance in Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and Vietnamese, in 16 counties in seven states, covering more than 672,750 voters. AALDEF staff attorney Glenn Magpantay said, “We urge Congress to vote this week to restore and renew the Voting Rights Act. We also urge Congress to improve the bill by expanding language assistance.”

AALDEF is urging an expansion to remove barriers to voting for Asian American citizens from three more language minority groups: Cambodian, Thai, and Asian Indian, in addition to the five already covered. An expansion will also increase the number of covered jurisdictions from 16 to 21 and will protect Asian American voters in two more states, Virginia and Maryland. The expansion will also benefit Latinos and would add 29 new jurisdictions covered for Spanish-language assistance, for a total of 246, up from 217.

AALDEF also urges Congress to support strengthening Section 5 by addressing recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. Section 5 ensures that cities and states with a history of voting discrimination against African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and language minority voters, will be deterred from implementing voting changes that will weaken the ability of minority voters to participate in the political process.

Among the letters signatories are Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, and the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans.

For more background on Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and the covered jurisdictions for Asian Americans, please download AALDEFs fact sheet, Language Access to the Vote for Asian Americans. at: LanguageAccesstotheVote_VRA203.pdf