Report: Many Problems for Asian Voters in Primaries

(Photo by Jon Scheiber/Flickr Creative Commons)

According to a new report, Asian American voters in New York and across the country found polling places on Primary Day that did not offered the required translation services and poll workers that provided inaccurate information, the World Journal reported. The article below was translated from Chinese.

With the presidential election quickly approaching, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released a report highlighting the main voting problems faced by Asian Americans in the September 13 primary elections.

The problems included translation errors, lack of translation, voters not knowing where to seek help, misinformation, and voting websites having incomplete or inaccurate information. AALDEF will closely monitor the November 6 presidential elections.

AALDEF discovered that in some polling places in Flushing, Queens, some workers asked Republican voters to leave, telling them that only Democrats are allowed to vote in the primary.  In polling places where many South Asians vote, some Bangladeshi and Hindi translators were sitting behind the Chinese translation sign so voters could not tell that those translation services were available to them.

On Oct. 13, 2011, the Census Bureau requested that translation services in six Asian languages be available at polling places in 22 cities across 11 states. AALDEF has been in touch with local officials in those areas to help monitor the situation.  At this year’s primary, AALDEF received 56 complaints from five jurisdictions. The complaints included insufficient translation services, translation errors and a lack of translators for Bangladeshis and other South Asian voters.

AALDEF also discovered that in Bergen County, N.J.; Harris County, Texas; Hamtramck, Michigan and Quincy, Massachusetts, no one translated the names of the candidates so voters wouldn’t know who to vote for.  In many cases, there were not enough available translators or they would all leave together.  This happened in Hamtramck, Harris County and Philadelphia. In addition, in Quincy and Queens, New York, some people were using verbal attacks against translators and those who needed translation services.  There were also problems with the poll workers. For example, in Pennsylvania, one worker asked a voter who only wanted to cast a ballot for the presidential primary to vote for other offices .

The report, released on October 23, also pointed out errors on voting websites.  For example, in Bergen County and Quincy, some websites for Asian voters were only in English. In Suburban Cook County, Illinois, when voters wanted to confirm the address of a voting place, they were instead directed to information about nuclear submarines.  Quincy’s website also incorrectly translated the Chinese term for “presidential primary election.”


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  1. Pingback: Immigrants and Voters of Color Face Further Barriers to Voting in Sandy’s Aftermath | OurChinatown

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