Voting Rights & Democracy

Asian American Democracy Program

Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, however the community’s political strength has yet to be fully realized. Throughout U.S. history, Asian Americans have been disenfranchised by discriminatory laws that denied citizenship to Asian immigrants and rendered them ineligible to vote. Chinese Americans were not permitted to become citizens until 1943; for Asian Indians, 1946; and for Japanese and other Asian Americans, 1952. Despite the inroads Asian Americans have made as elected officials, the legacy of these discriminatory policies and the notion of Asian Americans as foreigners are still strongly felt today, impeding Asian American political participation.

AALDEF blends community education and organizing, election reform advocacy, litigation, and technical assistance to community-based organizations to promote civic participation among Asian Americans–immigrants and new citizens–across the country.


  • A hallmark of our voting rights work is our annual Asian American Election Protection Project, which consists of a multilingual voter survey and poll monitoring efforts. In 1988, AALDEF conducted the first exit poll of Asian American voters in a presidential election. Since then, we have monitored the voting rights and political opinions of Asian American voters in every major election.
  • In 1992, we were the only Asian American organization invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in support of expanding language assistance under the Voting Rights Act.
  • In 1994, we successfully advocated for the first fully translated Chinese-language ballots in New York City and the U.S., providing language assistance for the first time to 55,000 Chinese American voters in three counties covered by the Voting Rights Act.
  • In a joint coalition, AALDEF, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) of Medgar Evers College, released the Unity Map, a proposal for new Congressional, State Assembly, State Senate, and city council districts in New York City that reflects its changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans.
  • In 2010, AALDEF’s Census Project was a multi-faceted program utilizing community education, trainings, advocacy and legal support to ensure that Asian Americans were accurately counted in the decennial event. And in 2018, as the 2020 Census approached, we submitted comments to the Census Bureau, calling for removal of an untested question on citizenship in the 2020 Census form that would deter participation by Asian Americans and other immigrant families.

Program Priorities:

  • Advocacy and organizing for fair and equitable redistricting that enables the community to elect candidates of their choice by recognizing and protecting Asian American communities of interest at all legislative levels.
  • Building coalitions within Asian communities and with other communities of color to ensure fair redistricting and to oppose discriminatory voting laws and procedures.
  • Litigation, in partnership with community groups, as well as other national legal organizations to oppose discriminatory voting laws, procedures, redistricting, and restrictions to language access.
  • Documenting election day observations through poll monitoring during primary and general elections and creating observation/complaint letters and post-election reports.
  • Collecting and reporting out demographic and electoral data for Asian American voters through the National Asian American Voter Survey.