Friday, May 1, 2009

AALDEF: New Report on Asian American Voter Discrimination in 2008 Elections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 19, 2009
Glenn Magpantay, Staff Att’y, 917.439.3158
Margaret Fung, Exec. Dir., 212.966.5932 x201

Asian American Voters Face Discrimination in the 2008 Election
New Report Presented to Congress
Report is available online at .


Washington, D.C. … The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 35-year old civil rights organization, today presented Congress with a new report detailing obstacles faced by Asian American voters in eleven states and the District of Columbia in the November 2008 Presidential Elections. The report was delivered at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties on “Lessons Learned from the 2008 Election.”

AALDEF’s report, Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2008 Elections, documents violations of the Voting Rights Act and Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and other incidents of anti-Asian voter disenfranchisement from 52 cities across the country. The report is available online at .

On Nov. 4, 2008, AALDEF monitored 229 poll sites in 11 states - New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Nevada, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia - and conducted a multilingual exit poll of 16,665 Asian American voters. AALDEF received more than 800 complaints of voting barriers, which are described in the report.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said, “In the 2008 elections, Asian Americans faced an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote.” Some of the problems encountered by Asian American voters include the following:

** Language assistance, such as interpreters or translated voting materials, if any, was far from adequate. Some poll workers were completely unaware of their legal responsibilities or outright refused to make language assistance available to voters.

For example, at a poll site near Chinatown, NY, only one interpreter was available to assist hundreds of Chinese American voters. A poll site in Dorchester, MA was missing legally required Vietnamese provisional ballots. Boston only had partially translated ballots where candidates’ names were not transliterated into Chinese. Chinese voters had difficulty identifying their candidates of choice. Philadelphia voluntarily provided a language line for poll workers to get on-the-spot assistance for voters. However, during the Presidential Primary Election, poll workers did not know it existed, did not know how to access the line, or the line was overwhelmed and constantly busy.

** Some poll workers were rude, hostile, and made racist remarks. For example, poll workers in New York said they didn’t trust Asian American voters and denied them the right to vote and described them as “terrorists.” A Sikh voter was made to vote by provisional ballot because a poll worker said there were too many Sikh voters and she couldn’t figure out which one the voter was.

** Voters’ names were missing from or had other errors in voter roll books, often due to faulty processing or mishandling of voter registration forms. Many were simply turned away.

** Although HAVA requires that these voters be offered provisional ballots, poll workers denied voters this right. In Lowell, MA, voters were told to go to City Hall. In Chinatown, Philadelphia, PA poll workers would not distribute provisional ballots because there were too few. Voters were turned away and unable to vote.

** Poll workers made improper and excessive demands for identification, misapplying HAVA’s ID requirements. These demands often were made only of Asian American voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Some states that required all voters to provide identification only applied identification checks to Asian American voters; white voters were exempted.

AALDEF sent complaint letters to local election officials that detailed these voting obstacles and offered recommendations for improvements. AALDEF staff attorney Glenn D. Magpantay said, “Vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is still very much needed.” Copies of the complaint letters were sent to the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice for further investigation.

AALDEF also made other recommendations to the House Subcommittee during the hearing, calling for legislation to allow for universal voter registration and amendments to HAVA to clarify that voting by provisional ballot should also be used to correct errors and omissions in voters’ registrations, as was recommended by the Carter/Ford National Commission on Federal Election Reform.

In addition, AALDEF will call on the United States Supreme Court to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. On April 29, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to the constitutionality of the enforcement provisions in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District One v. Holder. AALDEF will be submitting an amicus brief to the Court later this month, detailing results from its poll monitoring efforts over the years. AALDEF’s brief will show how Asian Americans continue to face voting discrimination and how Section 5 is necessary and proper to protect the fundamental right to vote.

In the 2004 Presidential Election, AALDEF polled 10,789 Asian American voters in eight states. Detailed results from AALDEF’s 2008 multilingual exit poll will be announced soon. The co-sponsors listed below worked with AALDEF to mobilize 1,500 attorneys, law students, and community volunteers to participate in the 2008 election monitoring effort.

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National Co-Sponsors:
Asian Pacific Islander American Vote
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium
North American South Asian Bar Association
Organization of Chinese Americans
South Asian Americans Leading Together

Local Chapters:
APIA Vote - Michigan
APIA Vote - Pennsylvania
APIA Vote - Nevada
OCA: Greater Washington DC
OCA: Northern Virginia
OCA: New Jersey
OCA: Greater Houston
OCA: Greater Philadelphia
OCA: Greater Chicago
OCA: Detroit/ACA
OCA: Eastern Virginia

Local Co-Sponsors:
Asian American LEAD – DC
Asian American Society of Central Virginia
Asian Community Development Corporation of Boston
Asian Pacific American Agenda Coalition – MA
Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia – PA
Conference for Asian Pacific American Leadership – DC
Chinatown Voter Education Alliance – NY
Chinese Amer. Planning Council Youth Services – NY
Chinese American Voters Association – NY
Chinese Progressive Association – MA
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia
Committee of 70 – PA
Filipino American Human Services Inc. – NY
Hunter College/CUNY, Asian American Studies Prog.
Korean American Coalition – DC
Korean American Voters’ Council of NY/NJ
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center – IL
Korean Community Service Ctr. of Greater Wash. DC
Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association – MD
Mass VOTE – MA
One Lowell – MA
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation – PA
Providence Youth and Student Movement – RI
Sikh Coalition – NY
South Asian Youth Action! – NY
U. Maryland Asian American Studies Program
Viet-Vote – MA
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development – MA
Vietnamese Amer. Young Leaders Assoc. of New Orleans
YKASEC: Empowering Korean Amer. Communities - NY

Legal Co-Sponsors:
AU Wash. College of Law, Human Rights Clinic - DC
Asian American Bar Assoc. of Greater Chicago – IL
Asian American Bar Association of Houston – TX
Asian American Bar Association of NY
Asian American Lawyers Association of MA
Asian Pacific Amer. Bar Assoc. of Greater Wash.DC
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of PA
Asian Pacific American Lawyers Assoc. of NJ
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center – DC
Greater Boston Legal Services: Asian Outreach Unit
Indian American Bar Association of IL
Korean American Lawyers Assoc. of Greater NY
Michigan Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Muslim Bar Association of New York
South Asian Bar Association of DC
South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey
South Asian Bar Association of New York
South Asian Bar Association of Michigan
U. Penn. School of Law, Public Interest Office
Temple U. School of Law, Public Interest Office – PA
and Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
chapters across the country.

Law Firms:
Bingham McCutchen LLP
Chadbourne & Parke LLP
Clifford Chance US LLP
Constantine & Cannon LLP
Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP
Dickenson Wright PLLC
DLA Piper
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP
Fish & Richardson P.C.
Fried Frank LLP
Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
Goodwin Procter LLP
K&L Gates LLP
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
McDermott Will & Emery LLP
Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Pepper Hamilton LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Reed Smith LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
White & Case LLP

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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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