Asian Americans faced discrimination while voting


New York : Asian American voters, including those of Indian origin, faced discrimination in the 2006 midterm elections due to improper voter identification checking, says an election watchdog.

Support TwoCircles

Flawed interpretation assistance to the limited English proficient voters as well as hostile and poorly trained poll workers too deterred many Asian American voters from exercising their right to vote, according to a report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

The report, titled “Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2006 Elections”, documents violations of the Voting Rights Act and Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

The report is based on the New York-based AALDEF’s survey of the November 2006 midterm elections in 25 cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Washington, Virginia, Maryland and Columbia district.

All US House of Representatives seats and one third of the Senate seats were contested in the election.

In AALDEF’s survey, 40 percent of Pakistani, 38 percent of Bangladeshi and 17 percent of Indian voters were found to have limited English proficiency. One-third of Urdu and one-third of Bengali-speakers stated that they needed the assistance of interpreters or translated voting materials in order to vote.

Although only 17 percent of Indian American voters needed language assistance, most of these were Punjabi speaking.

The report goes on to detail impediments faced by Asian Americans while exercising their right to vote.

At one poll site in Sunnyside, Queens, at least 20 voters complained that they were required to show ID without explanation.

In Manhattan’s Chinatown, one poll worker demanded identification from all Asian American voters waiting in queue.

“In Brooklyn, three South Asian voters were required to show IDs even though they had registered several years ago and had voted in multiple elections,” the report says.

In Brooklyn, New York, a South Asian voter’s name was missing from the list of registered voters even though he had been casting his vote at the same poll site for years. He tried to complete a provisional ballot but may not have filled it out correctly because no Bengali-speaking interpreters were present to assist him.

It is mandatory for the New York City Board of Elections to translate voter registration forms and provide Bengali interpreters at poll sites in Queens and Brooklyn, and Urdu interpreters in Brooklyn.

The report has also said that poll workers were hostile towards Asian American and limited English proficient voters.

In the survey, 30 Asian American voters complained that poll workers were unhelpful or unaware of proper election procedures.

Some workers made disparaging remarks about minority language assistance.

One worker in Woodside, New York, said she thought it was a waste of the taxpayers’ money to pay for so many interpreters and for the multiple copies of materials in different languages.

AALDEF has sent copies of the report and complaint letters to the US Department of Justice’s Voting Section for further investigation.

AALDEF is planning to have multilingual exit poll and monitor the presidential election this year.