AALDEF Applauds Bipartisan Bill to Modernize the Voting Rights Act

Thursday, Jan 16, 2014

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) commends the introduction of bipartisan legislation offering common sense fixes to modernize the Voting Rights Act (VRA). This bill will address the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder by ensuring greater protections for all voters against discrimination at the ballot box and ensuring that limited English proficient Americans are guaranteed the right to vote.

"We applaud the members of Congress who have come together to affirm that everyone should have equal access to the vote, including language minority citizens," said Margaret Fung, AALDEF Executive Director.

Asian Americans are now the fastest-growing racial group in this country, and newly-naturalized citizens greatly benefit from Section 203, the language assistance provisions of the VRA. Section 203 requires written translations of all voting materials, including ballots, and interpreters  in specific jurisdictions with large populations of language minority citizens.

"We are especially pleased that this bill allows federal observers to be deployed to monitor Section 203 compliance in covered jurisdictions," said Glenn Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program Director.

The new bill protects the right to vote by providing better public notification ofpotential voting changes to enhance transparency and accountability, greater authority for federal courts to shape appropriate remedies in jurisdictions with a recent history of discrimination, and the dispatch of federal observers to monitor the provision of language assistance.

In its 2013 ruling in Shelby, the Supreme Court weakened longstanding protections for minority voters in the VRA. AALDEF has utilized surviving provisions of the VRA, including Section 203, to protect Asian American voters. One week after the Shelby ruling, AALDEF sued the New York City Board of Elections for failing to provide Bengali ballots in Queens County, which led to the provision of language assistance to South Asian American voters in the 2013 citywide elections.

Nonetheless, Asian Americans continue to face significant obstacles to the vote. In the 2012 Presidential Election, AALDEF poll monitors received more than 300 complaints of voting problems from Asian American voters, including the denial of mandated language assistance, racist remarks made by poll workers, misdirection to poll sites, and inadequate notification of poll site assignments or changes. All of these problems were exacerbated because many of the voters were limited English proficient.

"While we have made great strides as a nation, discrimination is still a reality in too many places, especially for limited English proficient voters. This bill is an important step. We hope that Congress will take swift action to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to ensure that the right to vote is protected for all Americans," said AALDEF Democracy Program attorney Jerry Vattamala.

Ujala Sehgal
212.966.5932 x.217


May 5: Presentation on DOJ's racial profiling of Chinese American scientists


Texas County and AALDEF settle federal voting rights lawsuit on language assistance


AALDEF exit poll results: Chinatown voters support Clinton, Trump in NY presidential primaries


March 28: Race Relations and Collaboration After the Peter Liang Case, NYC Bar Association


March 15: Panel on Human Rights, Trafficking & Economic Empowerment


AALDEF joins 325 groups urging Supreme Court to allow executive actions on immigration to proceed


March 9: Panel on Voting Rights in an Election Year for Communities of Color


AALDEF joins 80+ groups urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action on U.S. Supreme Court nominee


AALDEF praises NYS Board of Regents decision to remove obstacles to professional licenses for non-citizens


Feb. 27: AALDEF legal rights workshop on immigration, DACA


Asian delivery workers sue Manhattan sushi restaurant for back wages, overtime pay


Texas federal court rules that AALDEF voting rights lawsuit may proceed


AALDEF joins 220+ groups asking Supreme Court to protect Obama's immigration actions


FAQs on Asian Americans and Fisher v. UT-Austin


160+ AAPI groups file amicus briefs in support of affirmative action in Fisher v. UT-Austin