AAPI Organizations will Monitor Northern California Poll Sites
For Immediate Release:
Monday, May 21, 2012
Asian American Organizations to Monitor Sacramento and Alameda County’s Bilingual Language Assistance During 2012 Elections
OAKLAND , CA – On June 5, 2012, the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus (ALC) will monitor poll sites throughout northern California to ensure that Asian American voters, regardless of English language ability, will have full and equal access to the ballot. The poll monitors will examine whether Alameda and Sacramento Counties are complying with their obligations under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 203 requires jurisdictions to provide language assistance if the number of eligible voters qualifying for such assistance meets certain threshold numbers, as determined by the Census Bureau. Language assistance must be provided both before and on Election Day, and it includes translated written materials, such as voter information guides, ballots, signage, and bilingual assistance at poll sites.
“Access to the ballot for immigrant voters is guaranteed by state and federal laws,” states Hyeon-Ju Rho, Executive Director of ALC. “The truth of the matter is that most voters are unaware of their rights. We will track whether individuals are being improperly turned away or are unnecessarily required to produce a form of identification. We will also monitor whether counties are complying with their legal obligation to provide language assistance to particular communities,” continued Rho.
For the first time, voters in Alameda County will now have access to bilingual voting assistance in Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Up until last year, Alameda County offered language assistance in Chinese and Spanish only. “The addition of Tagalog and Vietnamese as covered language groups, as well as the continual coverage of Chinese and Spanish, reflects the rapid and diverse growth of the Asian American community across the Bay Area,” said Carlo De La Cruz, Voting Rights Coordinator at ALC. “With four Bay Area counties and Sacramento County now providing language assistance in multiple Asian languages and Spanish, Asian American and Latino voters across the region will now be able to cast their ballot more effectively, regardless of their ability to speak English.”
As one out of three Asian Americans is limited English proficient, the most recent determination in 2011 reflects the growing need for bilingual language assistance in northern California. “Language is often one of the strongest barriers preventing many new citizens from being able to fully and effectively participate in our democratic system,” said Carolyn Hsu, Voting Rights Fellow at ALC, “New citizens are an integral part of the voting public and, with language assistance, they will likely turn out in force to cast their ballots.”
Last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Alameda County, alleging that the County violated Section 203 by failing to provide effective access to the electoral process for Spanish and Chinese-speaking citizens who need language assistance and translated information to cast an informed ballot. Later that year, a district court approved a consent decree that requires Alameda County to comply with specific instructions in carrying out its language assistance plans. The DOJ brought a similar lawsuit in 1995, which also resulted in a settlement agreement.
ALC is working in partnership with its affiliates at the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice to conduct this voter protection project throughout the country. The effort in northern California is made possible by the assistance of the Filipino Advocates for Justice (Union City), Family Bridges (Oakland), Lao Family Community Development (Oakland), and Asian Resources (Sacramento).
Under Section 203, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sacramento Counties are required to provide bilingual voting assistance to Chinese and Spanish voters. Additionally, Alameda County will now join Santa Clara County in providing bilingual language assistance in Tagalog and Vietnamese. More information about Section 203 can be found at: www.advancingequality.org/
The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law Caucus is a member of the
Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. For more information, please visit http://asianlawcaucus.org.
Carlo De La Cruz,
Asian Law Caucus