The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 34-year old civil rights organization, today released a new report detailing several obstacles faced by Asian American voters in nine states in the November 2006 Midterm Elections.
AALDEF’s report, “Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2006 Elections,” documents violations of the Voting Rights Act and Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and other incidents of anti-Asian voter disenfranchisement in 25 cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The report is available online at www.aaldef.org.
Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director, said: “As states prepare for the 2008 Presidential Elections, we urge election officials to remove the barriers that prevent Asian American citizens from exercising their right to vote.”
On Nov. 7, 2006, AALDEF monitored 172 poll sites in 9 states and conducted a multilingual exit poll of over 4,700 Asian American voters. AALDEF received more than 200 complaints of voting barriers, which are described in the report. They include:
* Poll workers made improper or excessive demands for identification–often only from Asian American voters–and misapplied HAVA’s ID requirements. In Boston, an interpreter appointed by the Elections Department required all Chinese-speaking voters to show IDs before they could receive a translated ballot; none of the English-speaking voters were similarly asked for their IDs.
* Poll workers hindered voter access to interpreters and translated voting materials required under the Voting Rights Act. In New York, Chinese American voters were given Spanish-language ballots.
* Asian American voters’ names were missing or incorrectly transcribed in voter lists at poll sites. HAVA requires that these voters be offered provisional ballots, but poll workers denied voters this right. In New Jersey, poll workers told Asian American voters to go to the Borough Clerk’s office.
* Poll workers were unable to direct voters to their proper poll sites or precincts. In Philadelphia, one voter was driven to tears after being sent to several places and given no correct addresses. In New York, a husband and wife were improperly sent to different lines at different election districts within the same poll site.
AALDEF sent complaint letters to local election officials that detailed these voting obstacles and offered recommendations for improvements. AALDEF staff attorney Glenn D. Magpantay said, “Our findings demonstrate that vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is still needed.” Copies of the report and complaint letters were sent to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Voting Section for further investigation.
On January 9, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two challenges to the constitutionality of voter identification requirements, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita. AALDEF submitted an amicus brief to the Court, citing results from its 2004 and 2006 election monitoring efforts. AALDEF’s brief contends that voter ID laws disenfranchise Asian Americans and prevent racial and language minorities from exercising their fundamental right to vote.
In the last Presidential Election, AALDEF polled nearly 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states about Election Day problems at the polls. Plans for AALDEF’s 2008 multilingual exit poll and election monitoring project will be announced soon.