Language Rights in Voting
Voting can be a complicated process for anyone. For citizens whose first language is not English, the process is even more difficult to navigate. Nearly one-third of Asian Americans have some difficulty communicating in English, making voting that much more intimidating. Voters have rights to assistance in voting if they have difficulty communicating in English.
You may have the right to in-language assistance and materials when you vote
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain counties and jurisdictions to provide bilingual voting assistance in communities with large numbers of language minorities and limited-English proficient (LEP) citizens, was enacted by Congress in 1975 upon recognizing that certain minority citizens experienced historical discrimination and disenfranchisement due to limited English proficiency. This means that all information provided in English must also be provided in the covered languages, including written materials, oral assistance at polling sites, and publicity prior to Election Day about the availability of language assistance at polling sites.
- Please see Section 203 Coverage Update Joint Report for an overview of the most recent Section 203 determinations in December 2021.
- You can find more information about what Asian American languages are covered and in what jurisdictions here Advancing Justice 203 Factsheet 2021 Determinations.
- To see whether your jurisdiction came close to meeting the latest Section 203 determinations, take a look at Just Missed Section 203 Coverage Jurisdictions Factsheet 2021 Determinations.
Section 203 Fact Sheet: Your Right to Language Voting Assistance (Bi-lingual translations available in both English and Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)
Section 208: You have the right to bring someone to help you in the voting booth
One tool that LEP voters can easily use to participate in elections is to bring someone to help in the voting booth. Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act allows voters needing assistance because of blindness, disability, or the inability to read or write, including voters who have difficulty with English, to bring someone (who is not their employer or union representative) into the voting booth to help them understand and cast a ballot.
Section 208 Fact Sheet: Your Right to Bring Someone to Help You in the Voting Booth (Available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Khmer, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese)
Call 1-888-API-Vote for in-language help on Election Day
Advancing Justice | AAJC and APIA Vote run a hotline where voters can get answers to their questions about voting and receive assistance in eight Asian languages. Call 1-888-API-VOTE or 1-888-274-8683 for assistance.
Community Leaders' Guides to Language Access
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and partners provide language assistance guides for election officials, policymakers, and community leaders to prepare themselves to be ready to assist voters from different language backgrounds.
- Election Officials' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Election Officials' Guide to Providing Language: A Summary
- Policymakers' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Policymakers' Guide to Providing Language Access: A Summary
- Community Leaders' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Community Leaders' Guide to Providing Language Access: A Summary
- Help Asian Americans Protect Their Voting Rights - A guide to ensuring language assistance to Asian American voters during elections.
- Voices of Democracy: Asian Americans and Language Access During the 2012 Elections - An examination of national trends in language assistance and other voting problems, section 203 implementation, and best practices and recommendations.