aaldef files complaint over queens voting rights violations

This week, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice, urging it to investigate racial discrimination during the 2009 New York City Council election in District 19 and to appoint federal observers to deter future discriminatory conduct.

According to AALDEF, Asian American voters and volunteers for candidate Kevin Kim's campaign for City Council were apparently racially targeted and harassed. Some were physically threatened and assaulted, in addition to numerous other discriminatory violations. From AALDEF's press release:
AALDEF found that Asian American voters and volunteers for candidate Kevin Kim's campaign for City Council were racially targeted and harassed, in violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Some were physically threatened and assaulted. Korean American voters also faced racially discriminatory application of election procedures by New York City Board of Elections officials and were given limited access to Korean language assistance, which is mandated in Queens County under the VRA. In past years, AALDEF has monitored several elections in New York City and found numerous violations of the language assistance provisions of the VRA and Help America Vote Act, as well as other barriers to voting for Asian Americans.

Early in the 2009 campaign, the New York City Police Department investigated a hate crime committed by individuals supporting Dan Halloran, a white candidate in District 19. A large group of white male teenagers verbally harassed and physically threatened two Korean American volunteers. The group of white males used racial slurs and made disparaging comments about their Korean ethnicity, chanting "White Power!" and "White Supremacy!" One of the white males assaulted a Korean American, injuring the volunteer's hand.

Supporters of Kim also reported that their property was vandalized. One resident of District 19 found her Kim campaign lawn sign was set on fire.

Moreover, non-Asian supporters for Kim were targeted. At a poll site in Whitestone, Queens, a Metropolitan Transit Authority employee in uniform ripped apart campaign signs for Kim. He yelled at a white female volunteer for Kim saying, "Why would you support the locusts?", referring to Asian Americans in his community. When asked to stop, the MTA employee threatened her with violence and said, "Well if it keeps my community white...I’m going to punch you in the face."
The press release goes on to detail how Halloran's campaign made racial appeals, as well as how racially disriminatory procedures were applied against Korean American voters on election day. More here: AALDEF Complaint to DOJ: Voting Rights Violations in Queens City Council District.

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