Language assistance is a key issue for Asian American voters

It's no secret that low voter turnout is a problem for our community. We suck at getting out to the polls. It doesn't help that many Asian Americans have to deal with hurdles like language assistance at the polls: New Report on 2012 Election Finds Language Assistance a Key Issue for Asian American Voters.

Last week, Asian American Advancing Justice released a report examining whether counties complied with their obligations to provide language assistance to Asian American voters during the 2012 presidential election. In short, access to translated materials and bilingual poll workers are still significant issues.

The report is based on advocacy with election officials and poll monitoring to ensure compliance with language assistance laws at nearly 900 election precincts across 14 jurisdictions in seven states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington state.

Nationally, the report finds low visibility or no display of translated materials at 45 percent of the poll sites monitored, and a lack of bilingual poll workers at a quarter of poll sites monitored. The report also finds variation across jurisdictions in how language assistance requirements were implemented. The report sets forth specific findings for 14 jurisdictions that are required by Section 203 to provide assistance in one or more Asian languages, including several jurisdictions newly subject to such requirements.

"Although language assistance was not well-provided in several instances, some jurisdictions have adopted effective methods of preparing for Election Day and providing assistance to voters who need it. The report highlights these best practices so that election officials across the country can better take note of them," stated Deanna Kitamura, senior staff attorney at Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. In a meeting on Tuesday, Kitamura presented the report to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which was established by President Obama to study election administration to improve the experience voters will have in future elections.
View the full report here: Section 203 Voices of Democracy Report 2012.

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