Asian American Voter Turnout High on Election Day, but Many Face Problems at Polls
(New York, NY) Asian Americans, especially new citizens and first-time voters, turned out to vote in record numbers today, but many encountered barriers at polling places, ranging from inadequate language assistance, improper requests for identification, and missing names on voter rolls.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) dispatched over 1,400 attorneys, law students and community volunteers to over 130 polling places in 11 states with large Asian American populations, who recorded voter complaints and conducted a nonpartisan multilingual exit poll.
AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said, "Asian Americans faced the same long lines, delays and poll worker confusion over ID requirements as other voters, but their problems were compounded by the lack of language assistance and occasional hostility toward new citizen voters."
AALDEF received hundreds of complaints from Asian American voters on their telephone hotline, 800-966-5946, and from their volunteer poll monitors in 11 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, and Washington, D.C. The preliminary list of voting incidents:
NAMES OF REGISTERED ASIAN AMERICANS NOT ON VOTER ROLLS
In NYC, over 200,000 New Yorkers registered in the last two weeks before the Oct. 10 deadline; there were two voter lists at several election districts, but it's unclear whether poll workers checked both voter books,
-At P.S. 250 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, several voters claimed they had voted in previous elections but their names were not on the voter rolls.
-At P.S. 94 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, one voter was told to go home to get an ID in order to vote-no interpreters were available to explain why this was needed.
-At P.S. 281, Jefferson High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, poll workers refused to look in voter lists to see whether Mr. Man On CHAN was able to vote. He was registered to vote, but his last name (Chan) had been reversed with his first name, and he was listed under "On." This problem first occurred in 2005, and apparently, it still has not been fixed. Mr. Chan was not able to vote today.
-At Bailey School in Lowell, MA, several Asian Americans who registered at the Registry of Motor Vehicles discovered that their names were not on the voter lists
RACIST REMARKS AND IMPROPER POLL WORKER CONDUCT
-At P.S. 185 in Brooklyn, an Arab American voter who was waiting to vote was told by a poll worker: "We dont trust you; you're not voting."
-At P.S. 94 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, two Arab American voters were asking some questions, and after they walked out, AALDEF volunteers heard a poll worker say, "They look like terrorists to me."
-At Annandale Firehouse in Virginia, voters complained about improper electioneering by one poll worker, who told Korean Americans which candidates to vote for.
-In Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a Chinese American grandmother needed assistance to vote and asked her granddaughter to help her cast her ballot. A poll worker prevented her from bringing her family member into the voting booth, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
INADEQUATE NUMBERS OF ASIAN-LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS
In Boston (where a Justice Department consent decree requires Chinese- and Vietnamese-language assistance):
At Thomas Edison School in Boston, Chinese-language materials were not readily available, and ballot questions were not translated into Chinese.
At Academy Hill Library, Chinese interpreters were not identified clearly and signs were not available to advise voters about these interpreters.
At Richard J. Murphy School, provisional ballots were not available in Vietnamese.
In New York City, Chinese- and Korean-language voting assistance is required under the federal Voting Rights Act in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens Counties.
At several sites in Manhattan's Chinatown, there were interpreter shortages:
P.S. 2, 122 Henry Street, had 1 Chinese interpreter; 4 were required
Rutgers House at 200 Monroe Street had 2 Chinese interpreters; 4 were required
Land's End at 275 Cherry Street had 1 Chinese interpreter; 3 were required
PS 94 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn had no interpreters
P.S. 250 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn had 3 interpreters, 5 were required
ASIAN-LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE NEEDED, BUT NOT AVAILABLE
Asian Americans who encountered problems at the polls did not have access to interpreters or Asian-language voting materials. Complaints came from Vietnamese voters at DiSilvestro Recreation Center, Hmong voters at 69th Street Church in Philadelphia, and Bengali voters in Michigan.
IMPROPER REQUESTS FOR IDENTIFICATION
In some states where ID is not required except for certain first-time voters, poll workers still asked voters to provide IDs. The largest number of complaints came from these sites:
IS 131 in Manhattan's Chinatown
PS 62 in Ozone Park, Queens
PS 12 in Woodside, Queens
Botanical Gardens in Flushing, Queens
Telecommunications High School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Benjamin Cardozo HS, Bayside, Queens
BROKEN VOTING MACHINES (the mechanical lever Shoup machines in NYC are the oldest voting machines in the nation, not yet replaced under HAVA)
Latimer Gardens in Queens
P.S. 230 in Kensington, Brooklyn:
P.S. 250 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Botanical Gardens, Flushing, Queens
DELAYS AND LONG LINES/NOT ENOUGH POLL WORKERS
In New Orleans, some Vietnamese American voters had to wait 2 hours to vote at Sarah T. Reed HS in Orleans Parish.
In New Orleans at Mary Queens of Viet Nam Church, voters had to wait almost three hours to vote; poll workers divided voters into three lines.
In Philadelphia's Chinatown, lines at the Chinese Christian Church extended for two blocks in the early morning. By late afternoon, voters said they heard poll workers talking about how they would soon run out of provisional ballots.
An additional list of voter complaints will be released later this week, together with the results of 15,000 exit poll questionnaires, which will provide a snapshot of Asian American voting patterns, including preferences in the Presidential and congressional races, top reasons for voters' choices, party affiliations, whether they were first-time voters, use of Asian-language voting assistance, and other specific problems encountered at the polls. In the 2004 Presidential election, AALDEF polled 10,789 Asian American voters in 8 states, the largest survey of its kind in the nation.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.