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Demanding Electoral Reforms!

By March 28, 2006 No Comments

On July 7th, YKASEC-Empowering the Korean American Community, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), and other civil rights organizations held a press conference to release the “Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2002 Elections in NYC.” This report documents a range of barriers faced by Asian American voters including improper demands for identification; rude, hostile, and discriminatory poll workers; incorrectly entered and lost voter registration forms; hidden translated voting materials; shortages of interpreters; and confusion over changed poll sites.

During the 2003 Primary and General Elections, YKASEC, AALDEF, Asian American Bar Association of New York, and Chinatown Voter Education Alliance monitored 70 polling sites throughout New York City and surveyed nearly 1,000 Asian American voters in several Asian languages and dialects.The findings reported that 18% of the surveyed voters were discriminated at various poll sites. What is more, 20-30% of the voters stated that they were unable to read the translations on the ballots.

To address this growing problem, organizations that participated in the press conference called on state and local officials to institute a series of reforms and to implement the federal Help America Vote Act in ways that will remove institutional voting barriers and address ongoing problems.This new federal law requires many changes to voting, some of which may actually create new obstacles for Asian American and other minority as well as Limited English Proficient (LEP) voters.

Young Sook Na, Program Director of YKASEC spoke on specific voting issues of the Korean American community highlighting cases wherein poll workers demanded that voters speak English, show identification, refused to allow them to vote because their names were not on the voter registration booklet, or prevented interpreters from providing language support to LEP voters.