Voting Rights & Democracy
Asian American Democracy Project
The ability to have a say in the workings of government, either as an elected official or as a voter, is a powerful empowerment tool. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, yet the community’s political strength has yet to be fully realized.
Throughout United States history, Asian Americans have been disenfranchised by discriminatory laws that denied citizenship to Asian immigrants and rendered them ineligible to vote. It was not until 1943 that Chinese Americans were first permitted to become citizens. For Asian Indians, it was 1946. For Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans, that right did not come until 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, 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.
AALDEF is a nationally recognized expert on Asian American voting issues and has testified before Congress on the issues of bilingual ballots, barriers to voting, and redistricting. AALDEF has also successfully litigated cases for compliance with the Voting Rights Act in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Austin, Texas. For the past 30 years, AALDEF has monitored elections for anti-Asian voter disenfranchisement, compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act’s language assistance provisions (Sections 203 and 208) and non-discrimination protections (Section 2), and implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The findings from these monitoring efforts have been analyzed and compiled in major policy reports that have been instrumental in federal voting rights policy. For copies of AALDEF’s latest voting rights policy reports, please click here.
A hallmark of AALDEF voting rights work is its annual Asian American Election Protection Project, which consists of a multilingual voter survey and poll monitoring efforts. The voter survey and poll monitoring are conducted each year, are national in scope, and involve thousands of trained volunteers from law firms, law schools, colleges, and community groups. During the 2008 Presidential Election, AALDEF covered a total of 229 poll sites in 52 cities in 11 states – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Nevada, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. AALDEF surveyed 16,665 Asian American voters in 11 Asian languages and dialects. Volunteer attorneys inspected 137 poll sites in New York City and Boston that were specifically targeted for language assistance under the Voting Rights Act and in Northern Virginia, Northern New Jersey, and Eastern Pennsylvania for voting signs required under HAVA. In total, AALDEF trained and organized more than 1,500 volunteer attorneys, law students and community members in this national effort.
AALDEF witnessed and received hundreds of complaints from Asian American voters on Election Day, ranging from hostile poll workers making racist comments toward Asian American voters to improper demands for identification or proof of citizenship from Asian American voters. AALDEF also operated a multilingual telephone hotline to record complaints of voting problems. Operators spoke seven languages and dialects: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Toisan, Korean, Tagalog, and Gujarati.
Monitoring the 2012 Elections
AALDEF has monitored the voting rights and political opinions of Asian American voters in every major election since 1988. In the 2008 elections, AALDEF polled almost 17,000 Asian American voters in eleven states and Washington, DC. For the 2012 elections, AALDEF conducted an exit poll of 9,096 Asian American voters in 14 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and also the District of Columbia. You can read the 2012 report describing Asian American voter problems here.
AALDEF monitored the poll sites for compliance with the Voting Rights Act, including the provision of Asian-language ballots, interpreters, signs, and voting materials, which are required in certain districts. AALDEF also monitored the application of strict voter identification and proof of citizenship laws that create discriminatory obstacles for Asian American voters and other voters of color.
Voter Education 2012: In response to a wave of state laws that threaten voting rights of Asian Americans and other voters of color, AALDEF offered a series of legal trainings in multiple cities reviewing voters’ rights, voter registration, and election rules for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. AALDEF also released fact sheets on state voting laws, beginning with New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Asian American Exit Polls
AALDEF conducts the nation’s only Election Day exit poll of Asian American voters in several states. Asian American voters are often not included in large enough numbers in many polls that are picked up by mainstream media, and as a result, Asian American civic engagement, voting preferences, and issues of concern can easily be ignored by elected officials and government agencies.
The Asian American Vote in the 2012 Presidential Election AALDEF polled 9,096 Asian American voters in 37 cities across 14 states in the 2012 elections: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Nevada, California, and Washington, D.C. The Asian American vote varied by ethnic group and geographic location, with 77% of Asian Americans polled voting for Barack Obama and 21% for Mitt Romney. You can read the 2012 Asian American exit poll report here
The Asian American Vote in the 2008 Presidential Election
On Election Day, November 4, 2008, AALDEF dispatched 1,500 attorneys, law students and community volunteers to poll sites in 11 states and conducted a nonpartisan multilingual exit poll of 16,665 Asian American voters. AALDEF’s exit poll was the nation’s largest survey of Asian American voters and covered 113 poll sites in 39 cities in in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, and Nevada. The exit poll was conducted in English and twelve Asian languages. test
The Asian American Vote in the 2004 Presidential Election On November 2, 2004, AALDEF, with the help of several co-sponsoring organizations and 1,200 attorneys, law students, and volunteers, conducted the nation’s largest nonpartisan, multilingual exit poll of almost 11,000 Asian American voters. The questionnaire was written in 8 languages, and Asian Americans were surveyed in 23 cities in 8 states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. test
Additional reports are available here.
Asian American Involvement in the Redistricting Process Census 2010 revealed a dramatic growth in the Asian American population in states and cities across the country. Redistricting is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to increase the political influence and electoral representation of Asian Americans by keeping communities together in newly-drawn districts.
New York City Council Redistricting AALDEF worked with other civil rights groups in New York City to propose new NYC city council district lines that reflected the City’s Asian American population growth.
New York State Senate, State Assembly, and Congressional Redistricting
AALDEF, in a joint coalition with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP), and the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) of Medgar Evers College have released the Unity Map, a joint proposal for new State Assembly and State Senate districts in New York City that reflects its changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans.
Favors v. Cuomo (2012) AALDEF and pro bono counsel Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint-in-intervention on behalf of four Asian American voters in the Congressional redistricting case Favors v. Cuomo, urging the Brooklyn Federal Court to adopt a redistricting plan that provides Asian Americans in New York with equal political representation. In March, a three-judge panel approved the new Congressional redistricting map for New York, which closely resembled AALDEF’s own proposed district lines by keeping Asian American and other communities of color together.
Perry v. Perez (2012). AALDEF, together with pro bono counsel Kaye Scholer LLP, filed an amicus brief in Perry v. Perez on behalf of the Organization of Chinese Americans Greater Houston Chapter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a Texas district court’s interim redistricting plan after the DOJ contended that the Texas state legislature’s plan diluted the voting power of Asian Americans and other people of color.
Asian Language Assistance under Voting Rights Act-Section 203 In 1992, AALDEF was 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, AALDEF successfully advocated for the first fully-translated Chinese-language ballots in New York City, providing language assistance for the first time to 55,000 Chinese American voters in three counties covered by the Voting Rights Act. In October 2011, the Census Bureau announced that under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, bilingual ballots and language assistance must be provided to Asian American voters in 11 states, covering 22 cities and counties, and in six Asian languages. Now for the first time, South Asian languages will be covered in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City (Queens), and Hamtramck, Michigan. Chinese and Filipino ballots will be provided in four more districts each, Vietnamese in three more districts, and Korean in one more district.
Press releases: Queens to Provide Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi Language Assistance in Upcoming Elections (April 30, 2012)
Eleven States Must Now Provide Asian American Voters with Bilingual Ballots (October 12, 2011)
- Voting Rights
- Federal trial against Texas' anti-voter law S.B. 1 begins
- Major Victory in Lawsuit Against Texas Anti-Voter Law
- AALDEF denounces Georgia councilmember’s anti-immigrant comments
- AALDEF Celebrates Win for Voting Rights
- AALDEF criticizes redistricting plan that splits Asian American voting strength in Boston's Chinatown/South End community
- Redistricting Commission’s NY Assembly plan divides Asians American communities in Queens and Brooklyn
- AALDEF Sues NYC Districting Commission over Council Map’s Splintering of Asian American Community in Queens
- Asian Americans Supported Warnock, according to AALDEF Asian American Exit Poll
- AALDEF releases preliminary Asian American Exit Poll results for 2022 midterm elections
- Unity Map Coalition Urges NYC Districting Commission to Comply with Legal Obligations to Protected Groups
- In response to District Court’s postponement of Texas redistricting trial, SCSJ, AALDEF, ACLU of TX, Brennan Center issue statement
- AALDEF and local Asian American community secure commitment from Malden, MA to provide Chinese language assistance in compliance with Voting Rights Act
- AALDEF condemns racist and red-baiting rhetoric and imagery perpetuated in Florida judicial race
- Proposed “Unity Map” for NY City Council is “Fair and Necessary”
- Federal Court Strikes Down Texas' SB1 Provision Restricting Assistance for Limited English-Speaking and Disabled Voters
- AALDEF Will Continue to Fight For the Voting Rights of Immigrants Despite "Our City Our Vote" Law Ruling
- Federal court orders State of Texas to stop restricting needed assistance to limited English speaking and disabled voters
- New York Senate Passes Landmark Voting Rights Legislation
- RE: SUPPORT FOR THE JOHN R. LEWIS VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF NEW YORK (S.1046B / A.6678B)
- New York City Welcomes “Naturalize 2 Million by 2022” Tour
- New York Voting Rights Consortium Endorses The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York
- AALDEF’s Analysis of Congressional, State Senate and Assembly Districts in New York City as Proposed by the New York State Legislature
- Unity Coalition Rejects NYS Legislature’s Proposed Redistricting Plans
- Communities of Color Urge LATFOR and NY Legislature to Adopt Unity Map Redistricting Plan
- Unity Coalition Applauds NYS Legislature’s Rejection of IRC Plans and Calls for Full Adoption of Unity Map For NYC
- Unity Map Coalition Calls for the Rejection of the IRC Redistricting Plans
- APA VOICE Redistricting Task Force Urges Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature to Adopt the Unity Map
- APA VOICE VIRTUAL PRESS CONFERENCE: ALL EYES TURN TO NYS LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR HOCHUL
- Census Bureau releases 2021 list of jurisdictions requiring Asian language assistance under the Voting Rights Act
- Unity Map Coalition Releases Congressional Plan for New York City
- VIRTUAL PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING TEXAS REDISTRICTING LAWSUIT
- AALDEF and Coalition of Civil Rights Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Block Racially Discriminatory Texas Redistricting
- AALDEF Exit Poll: Asian Americans in 5 States Approve of Biden, Approve of the Vaccine Mandate, and Support Abortion Access
- “Unity” Redistricting Map for New York City is Fair and Necessary
- Preliminary 2021 Asian American Exit Poll Results in Five States
- New York Voting Rights Consortium: Statement of Support for New York State Ballot Proposals 1, 3 and 4
- Unity Map Coalition Unveils Redistricting Plan for New York City
- AALDEF to conduct Asian American exit poll and monitor poll sites in 5 states
- Growing Communities of Color & Redistricting: A Statement from the Voting Rights Working Group
- AALDEF's Preliminary Analysis of Draft Maps Released by NYS Independent Redistricting Commission
- Unity Map Coalition Statement on New York State Independent Redistricting Commission Maps Release
- Groups File Lawsuit Against State of Texas Over Voter Suppression Bill SB 1
- Unity Coalition Statement on Today's Census Data Release
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Enters Consent Decree and Order in Voting Rights Act Lawsuit — Hamtramck’s Bengali Language Election Program Ordered for Four Years
- City of Hamtramck Settles Voting Rights Act Lawsuit; Agrees to Provide Bengali Language Assistance
- Volunteers Needed to Defend Asian American Voting Rights
- AALDEF Exit Poll: 2/3 of Asian American voters favored Senators-Elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in 2021 Georgia runoff elections
- AALDEF seeks volunteers for Georgia Senate runoff elections
- AALDEF Exit Poll: Asian Americans Favor Biden Over Trump 68% to 29%; Played Role in Close Races in Georgia and Other Battleground States
- Preliminary 2020 Asian American Exit Poll results; Asian American voter problems
- AALDEF to conduct Asian American Exit Poll and monitor poll sites in 14 states
- Absentee Ballot Requirements
- Sept. 22: AALDEF sets up voter information table in Manhattan's Chinatown for National Voter Registration Day
- AALDEF and SEAMAAC monitor poll sites in South Philadelphia for primary election
- Presentation on The 2018 Asian American Vote in Georgia
- Preliminary Results: AALDEF 2019 Exit Poll in Louisiana
- Preliminary Results: AALDEF 2019 Asian American Exit Poll in Virginia, Texas, and Pennsylvania
- AALDEF to Conduct Asian American Exit Poll and Monitor Poll Sites in NY, LA, MA, PA, TX, & VA
- AALDEF testifies at Texas House Redistricting Committee Public Hearings in Austin and Dallas
- At Rally for India's Modi, Trump Plays Second Fiddle but a Familiar Tune
- Latino voters, civil rights groups reach settlement with Texas over purging of voter rolls
- AALDEF calls on New York State Legislature to adopt voting rights bills in 2019
- New results - AALDEF 2018 exit poll of 8,058 Asian American voters
- AALDEF exit poll of 7,600 Asian American voters in 2018 midterm elections: preliminary results
- Census Bureau releases list of counties requiring Asian-language assistance under the Voting Rights Act
- NBC News: Supporters rally around Vietnamese American City Council member who was called ‘un-American’
- amNY: City Council petitioning could face delays over suit alleging redistricting carved up Queens Asian communities
- Sampan: Malden Celebrates Passage of Transliteration Law
- NBC News: Asian Americans heavily favored Warnock in Georgia runoff, exit poll shows
- NBC News: Nevada is 1 of 5 states with over 10% Asian Americans. Both parties courted vote, but Dems won out.
- Bloomberg: Grassroots Groups Key to Turning Out Asian American Voters
- NBC News: Asian Americans favored Democratic candidates in midterms, exit polls say
- City Limits: Language Access at the Polls, Explained
- PBS: Why Arabic ballots are now being offered in Michigan and what this means for voter access in the U.S.
- Legal Current: "It's humbling to be a part of life-changing work."
- CUNY TV: Redistricting — A Special Look
- Houston Public Media: Asian American and Pacific Islander voters are preparing to sue Texas for alleged discrimination in last year's redistricting
- Patch: Malden Commits To Chinese Language Election Accessibility Measures
- Texas Signal: A Small Part of SB1 is Struck Down
- Houston Chronicle: Court blocks new restrictions on voters’ assistants in Texas
- NPR: Texas is barred from enforcing new restrictions on voter assistance
- Texas Standard: Federal court strikes down voting law provision that limited assistance for voters with disabilities or limited English proficiency
- Staten Island Advance: Pro-immigrant rally held Tuesday outside Supreme Court as suit aims to block new voting rights
- City & State NY: Did the court’s draft maps sufficiently preserve communities of interest?
- Norwood News: Coalition Seeks to Stop Republican-Led Lawsuit Challenging the “Our City, Our Vote” Bill
- PoliticsNY: Coalition of Asian organizations demand representation in city redistricting
- Daily Kos: Thousands of ballots rejected in major test of Texas' restrictive voting laws
- Dallas Morning News: To comply with federal law, Dallas County adds Vietnamese translations to elections materials
- NY Daily News: Time for a new approach to redistricting: Embrace the Unity Map (Opinion)
- The City: Albany Democrats Seize Control of Redistricting, With Unclear Role for Public
- BK Reader: Brooklyn Neighborhood at the Center of Redistricting Battle
- City Limits: As NY Redistricting Forges Forward, Asian American Groups Push for ‘Unity Map’
- NPR: Asian American groups file a legal challenge to Texas' redistricting plans
- WDET: Hamtramck Ramps Up Efforts to Reach Bangladeshi Voters During Elections
- Public News Service: Lawsuit Claims Texas Redistricting Maps Disenfranchise Minority Voters
- Queens Daily Eagle: Redistricting Commission holds second hearing in Queens
- BK Reader: Unity Map Demonstrates Fair Election Districts are Possible for BK’s Communities of Color
- NBC News: Asian Americans favored Democrats by wide margin in high-profile races, exit polls say
- Dallas Morning News: Texas’ new political maps are law, but redistricting court battles have just begun
- CNBC: Gerrymandering could limit minority voters’ power even though Census shows population gains
- Gothamist: NYC's Population Hits A Record 8.8 Million, According To 2020 Census
- Gothamist: Divided Neighborhoods Press For More Political Sway With New Redistricting Maps
- Queens Chronicle: Queens zeroes in on redistricting
- India Currents: Rahima Begum Wins AALDEF Lawsuit To Vote In Bengali
- Associated Press: Detroit-area city will provide ballots in Bengali language
- Gothamist: "Redistricting Means Power": Everyday New Yorkers Get A Say In Carving Out Their District Lines
- Detroit Free Press: Hamtramck agrees to provide Bengali-language ballots, voting assistance in elections
- City & State NY: A historic 6 Asian American candidates win in City Council primaries
- News India Times: Hamtramck, Michigan, settles Voting Rights Act lawsuit on Bengali language assistance
- NBC News: How a Boston suburb corrected voter rights violations against Asian Americans
- Nevada Independent: Growing progressive force in the electorate; AAPI voters turn out at higher rates than 2016
- SupChina: How Chinese-American activism helped Georgia turn blue
- NBC Asian America: Asian Americans are growing fastest in Nevada. Here's how they voted.
- Vox: Asian Americans are seeing unprecedented outreach – but campaigns could still do better
- Scroll.in: 2020 US Election: In New Jersey's 'Little India', vocal Biden supporters and 'shy' Trump voters
- The Nation: If You Can't Speak English, Good Luck Voting in Trump's America
- Houston Chronicle: Growing Asian American population could help sway 2020 election
- Sampan: Immigrants face barriers to voting rights in upcoming election
- Axios - Kamala Harris and the political rise of America's Indian community
- NBC News: Democratic candidates take on Asian American Pacific Islander issues in Twitter
- NBC News: Asian Americans favor Biden, Warren while Yang lags behind, survey finds
- News India Times: Asian American exit poll in 3 states shows varied opinions
- Washington Post: What does Trump get out of appearing with Modi and appealing to Indian Americans, a group that largely disapproves of him?
- New York Times: At Rally for India's Modi, Trump Plays Second Fiddle but a Familiar Tune
- Politico: At a rally like no other, Trump woos Indian American voters ahead of 2020
- Agence France-Presse: In show of bond, Trump to join Modi in mass Houston rally
- Texas Tribune: Appeals court to weigh Texas voting law limiting language interpreters
- NBC News: Federal law allows nearly anyone to translate for voters. At polls, it can be a different story.
- Kings County Politics: Treyger, BK Lawmakers Call For More Interpreters At Polling Sites
- KPBS: Effort Launches To Mobilize Vietnamese Voters in San Diego
- Voting Rights