Asian American Civil Rights Group Reports Voting Violations on Election Day

Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013

11.5.13 Election Day 3.jpegNovember 5, 2013 -- Poll monitoring reports from New York, New Jersey, and Virginia by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) today include reports of a mistranslated ballot proposition, Hindi and Korean interpreter shortages, improper voter identification requirements, and one report of a racist poll worker.

"Continuing language translation violations and improper identification demands of Asian American voters are unacceptable," said Glenn D. Magpantay, director of AALDEF's Democracy Program. "Reports of voting violations in these three states with large Asian American populations should not be met with finger-pointing, but with corrective action."

On Election Day November 5, AALDEF sent over 300 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to three states to document voter problems. The elections today included the mayoral election in New York City and the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia. AALDEF also conducted a nonpartisan multilingual exit poll in six languages to get a snapshot of Asian American voting preferences in these key states in anticipation of next year's mid-term elections.

All observations were reported to the Board of Elections.  A summary of voting rights violations follows:

New York:

  • Mistranslated Ballot Propositions

The Chinese translation of ballot proposition 5 at PS 126 in Chinatown, Manhattan, P.S. 150 in Woodside, Queens, and P.S. 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn were mistranslated. Sample ballots at Election District 22/26 in Queens were also mistranslated.

  • Interpreter Shortages

Poll sites had shortages of Korean and Hindi speaking interpreters, including J.H.S. 217, I.S. 125, and St. Sebastian's School in Queens. Additionally, at P.S. 171 in Astoria, Queens, although the site was not targeted for Korean interpreters, reports indicated that many Korean-speaking voters were in need of language assistance.

  • Poll Worker Confusion

At Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing, Queens, poll workers told voters that the back side of the ballot was "not that important," leading voters to not vote on those propositions.  

  • Improper Voter ID Requirements

At Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, Queens and PS 126 in Chinatown, voters were required to show identification by the information clerk even though they were not first time voters.

New Jersey:

  • Interpreter Shortages

At Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, Ward 4, District 2 in Englewood, NJ, there were no Korean interpreters or bilingual poll workers, despite large number of Korean American voters. 

  • Racist Poll Workers

At JP Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey, an Indian American voter was prevented from voting because his last name was so long that it was displayed with a space (separating it into two words) in the voter roll. The white poll worker insisted that he was not the same person, and only after appealing to another Indian American poll worker was the voter allowed to vote.


  • Interpreter Violations

At Mosby Woods Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, two elderly Korean American voters were prevented from using their own interpreters inside the polling place. (Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act requires that voters can be assisted by an interpreter of choice, and these assistors may accompany the voters into the booth to translate the ballots for them.)

  • Improper Voter ID Requirements

At Deep Run High School in Glen Allen, Virginia, an additional form of voter identification -- requiring proof of address, was wrongfully required.  

Ujala Sehgal
212.966.5932 x.217

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. 


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