Asian American Communities Hail the Expansion Of Language Access For Limited English Proficient Voters

Call For Further Improvements
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144

Washington, D.C. — The Census Bureau updated determinations pursuant to the federal Voting Rights Act, designating Section 203 covered jurisdictions where elections officials are required to provide bilingual voting assistance to Asian Americans, Latines, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives. 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliate organizations in California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. issue a statement about the newly released determinations:

“The expansion of Section 203 coverage reflects the diversity and rapid growth of the Asian American community, which has for decades been the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. Asian Americans Advancing Justice welcome new language coverage, including two newly covered jurisdictions now in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, where translation of ballots and other election materials in Asian languages will be required for the first time. Section 203 now covers 53 jurisdictions in 32 localities in 14 states for 8 different Asian language groups.

Despite our population growth, Asian American communities continue to face disparities in voter registration and voter turn-out, but this is changing. Asian American voters are a notable part of an increased turn-out among voters of color. Improved language access, coverage, and compliance with Section 203 will help change disparities in voter participation. 

Charles Evans, Supervising Attorney at Advancing Justice - Los Angeles: “Section 203 enables the Asian American community to participate more fully in American democracy. Without these essential protections, millions would be unable to read or understand election materials and would be unable to vote. Studies show that 1 in 3 Asian Americans is limited English proficient, and that when language assistance is available, Asian American voters use such assistance to cast their ballots.” 

Terry Ao Minnis, Senior Director of Census and Voting Programs at Advancing Justice – AAJC: “We are ready to assist voters and elections officials, as Section 203 requirements are implemented across the country, in new and old covered jurisdictions in upcoming elections. The Voting Rights Act, inclusive of Section 203, provides legally enforceable rights to limited English proficient voters. We are also eager to work with local jurisdictions to find innovative ways to improve bilingual voter access.”

Julia Marks, Program Manager, Voting Rights and Census at Advancing Justice – ALC: “Even with the new Section 203 coverage, we can do better. Millions of voters with limited English proficiency and who may not live in dense population centers are out of luck. Their numbers may not meet the federal population threshold for Section 203 coverage, so we continue to call for solutions, including at the state and local level, that serve all residents.”

Grace Pai, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago: “Advancing Justice urges all jurisdictions to take steps to ensure language access and justice for all voters, including LEP voters, in their communities. We encourage states, counties, and localities to take the initiative necessary to do what is right in serving their populations. For example, Cook County, IL has passed its own ordinance to expand coverage; California has expanded coverage with its own statute CA 14201; and DeKalb County, GA and Cobb County, GA also voluntarily provided access to Asian language translation services recently.”

To assist voters and elections officials, Advancing Justice has produced a factsheet on the new Section 203 coverage and impact on Asian Americans. Voters who believe their rights have been violated or want more information can call 1-888-API-Vote (888-274-8683).

Section 203 determinations are made every five years based on American Community Survey data, an ongoing American population survey conducted by the Census Bureau.”