Census Bureau releases list of counties requiring Asian-language assistance under the Voting Rights Act

Thursday, Dec 8, 2016

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This week, the Census Bureau released an updated list of counties that are required by the federal Voting Rights Act to provide translated ballots and voting materials for specific language minority groups.

In 1975, Congress amended the Voting Rights Act to include protections for language minority citizens via Section 203, which requires that certain jurisdictions translate all voting materials into specified languages, based on decennial Census data. The list of counties and the languages for translated voting materials is now updated every five years, as a result of the 2006 amendments to the VRA.

The following jurisdictions are mandated to provide all voters with Asian-language assistance in the specified languages:

ALASKA
-- Aleutians East Borough: Filipino
-- Aleutians West Census Area: Filipino

CALIFORNIA
-- Alameda: Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese
-- Contra Costa: Chinese
-- Los Angeles: Cambodian, Chinese Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Other (not specified)
-- Orange: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese
-- Sacramento: Chinese
-- San Diego: Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese
-- San Francisco: Chinese
-- San Mateo: Chinese
-- Santa Clara: Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese

HAWAII
-- Honolulu: Chinese, Filipino

ILLINOIS
-- Cook: Chinese, Indian

MASSACHUSETTS
-- Lowell: Cambodian
-- Malden: Chinese
-- Quincy city: Chinese

MICHIGAN
-- Hamtramck city: Bangladeshi

NEVADA
-- Clark: Filipino

NEW JERSEY
-- Bergen: Korean
-- Middlesex: Indian

NEW YORK
-- Kings (Brooklyn): Chinese
-- New York (Manhattan): Chinese
-- Queens: Chinese, Korean, Indian

TEXAS
-- Harris: Vietnamese, Chinese
-- Terrant: Vietnamese

VIRGINIA
-- Fairfax: Vietnamese

WASHINGTON
-- King: Chinese, Vietnamese

There are now 27 jurisdictions in 12 states mandated by Section 203 to provide voters with Asian-language assistance, an increase of five from the Census Bureau's determinations in 2011.

Section 203 is a critical provision for Asian American voters, many of whom are limited English proficient. AALDEF especially welcomes the addition of Lowell and Malden in Massachusetts, Middlesex County in New Jersey, and Fairfax County in Virginia, four of the six new jurisdictions covered by Section 203 in which AALDEF has regularly conducted its multilingual exit poll of Asian American voters, the largest of its kind in the nation. AALDEF's Asian American exit poll results were cited when Congress expanded the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 1992 to cover more Asian American communities.

The updated list includes the following changes (additions are also bolded and underlined in the complete list above):

ADDITIONS:
Chinese in Contra Costa, CA and Malden, MA
Vietnamese in Terrant County, TX and Fairfax County, VA
Cambodian in Los Angeles, CA and Lowell, MA
Asian Indian in Middlesex County, NJ

REMOVALS:
Japanese in Los Angeles, CA and Honolulu, HI
Filipino in Maui, HI
Asian Indian in Los Angeles, CA

Jurisdictions are covered under section 203 of the Voting Rights when the Census Bureau certifies that five percent or more than 10,000 voting-age citizens speak an Asian language, have limited English proficiency, and have a higher illiteracy rate than the national illiteracy rate. Covered jurisdictions must translate ballots, voter registration forms, voting instructions, and all other voting materials and provide interpreters at election districts or precincts. Section 203 encourages local election officials to work with local community-based organizations to develop language assistance programs. As it has in the past, AALDEF stands ready to collaborate with covered jurisdictions in improving their language assistance programs and will continue to monitor poll sites for full compliance with section 203 in future elections.

Download AALDEF's updated fact sheet on Bilingual Ballots and Language Assistance for Asian Americans here.

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For more information, contact:
Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director
212.966.5932 x209
jvattamala@aaldef.org

Margaret Fung, Executive Director
212.966.5932 x201
mfung@aaldef.org