modern day barriers to voting

Looking back over the 2010 Elections, I can’t help but count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to shape and re-launch the Voter Rights Project at the Asian Law Caucus. The right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens of the United States, regardless of proficiency in English.  And I’m glad to have been a part of protecting the voting rights for mono-lingual Asian American voters in the San Francisco Bay Area.  In total we were able to cover over 300 poll sites in 4 counties with over 200 poll monitors.

The latest report by the Asian Law Caucus covers the project in detail.  Check it out for some of our findings and recommendations.

Strengthening Democratic Participation:
Voting Access by Limited English Speaking Asian Americans in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

A Report by the Asian Law Caucus & Asian Law Alliance

New Report Outlines Obstacles to the Ballot for Limited English Proficient Voters

Poll watchers fanned out to over 200 polling locations in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Their job was to monitor the ease and access to the voting booth, with a special eye towards challenges facing voters from Asian American communities. What these poll watchers found was quite problematic. Among the findings:

• Obstacles in obtaining adequate written language assistance
• Obstacles in obtaining adequate oral language assistance
• Voters forced to wait unnecessarily or being turned away due to language barriers
• Improper requests for identification before voters were allowed to cast their ballots

Some examples of they types of problems they encountered include:

Alameda County
In Alameda County at polling site 822010 (Pioneer School at 32737 Bel Aire Street, Union City), there were no bilingual ballots available in Chinese or in Spanish even though 16% of all registered voters in this precinct are Chinese and 19% are Latino.

At polling site 337100 (AC Transit at 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland), there were translated ballots for Part A, but the translated ballots were missing for Parts B and C. A full 14% of all registered voters in this precinct are Chinese.

Santa Clara County
At polling site 1763 (Country Hills Apartments at 124 Rancho Dr, San Jose) only Chinese sample ballots were displayed. When asked, the inspector said that no other languages were available even though they had more language materials to offer in the previous year and a bilingual Vietnamese election worker was assigned to the poll site. 13% of all registered Vietnamese voters in Santa Clara County were assigned to this precinct.

San Mateo County
In San Mateo County at polling site 1506 (Fire station at 785 Crestview Drive, Millbrae), all voters were forced to furnish proof of identity in order to vote. However, Identification is not required by California law and under federal law, identification requirements apply to only a very narrow set of first time voters. However, the poll monitor observed that every voter was improperly instructed to produce a form of identification. This potentially raises significant voting rights concerns especially for limited English proficient, immigrant voters especially among the 18% of all registered voters in this precinct that are Chinese.

San Francisco
In San Francisco at polling site 2123 (Firehouse at 651 26th Avenue), two Chinese bilingual election workers and one Spanish bilingual election worker were assigned by the County. However, the poll monitor observed no Chinese bilingual election workers. Over 27% of all registered voters in this precinct are Chinese; there were 77 requests for Chinese language assistance; and 119 registered Chinese voters who were born in a Chinese-speaking country.

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