After the United States Census Bureau required Queens County to provide language assistance to Indian voters in “Asian Indian” under the Voting Rights Act last fall, the New York City Board of Elections has now selected the specific languages for which various levels of assistance will be provided as Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi.
“Now that Bengali, Hindi, and Pubjabi have been chosen, many more South Asian voters will be able to engage in the political process,” said Chi-Ser Tran, Voting Rights Coordinator at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
AALDEF has been actively involved in assisting the Board of Elections in choosing the specific Indian languages that would benefit the greatest number of voters in Queens County’s growing South Asian population.
AALDEF submitted recommendations to the Board of Elections after extensively consulting with South Asian community organizations in Queens, linguistic experts, and Census population data. AALDEF furthermore incorporated its own exit poll data on Asian American voters collected over its decades of monitoring local and national elections.
The New York City Board of Elections announced this month that it will designate Bengali and Hindi as the languages for oral assistance, and, to the extent possible, will recruit Hindi interpreters who also speak Punjabi and provide signs. In addition, the Board has adopted Bengali as the language for written assistance.
The Board of Elections aims to begin providing assistance in time for the next primaries on June 26.
“Our goal has been to assist the Board of Elections in providing language assistance that will have the greatest impact, and to ensure that the assistance will be provided as soon as possible during this important election year,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF.
AALDEF will now focus on making sure that local election officials fully comply with the law. In the past, poll sites have mistranslated ballots by listing Democrats as Republicans and vice versa, or by incorrectly assigning interpreters. Vigorous enforcement of the language assistance will be required.