The Right to Assistance of Your Choice At The Polls

Jeanette Lee Terry Ao Minnis Carl Hum
| October 29, 2014

Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act ensures the right to assistance for voters with limited English proficiency from a person of their choosing.

This report explains Section 208—the right to assistance of your choice at the polls—and how it works, as well as how states' interpretations and applications of Section 208 have led to confusion at the polls and even the denial of a limited English proficient (LEP) voter to cast his or her ballot. The report also provides recommendations and best practices for election officials to consider and offers advocacy tips for community-based organizations on engaging with election officials to improve the implementation of Section 208, so that all LEP voters are able to vote on Election Day. 

Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act allows voters needing assistance because of blindness, disability, inability to read or write, or difficulty with English, to bring someone into the voting booth to help them cast their ballot. 

Section 208 applies nationwide and almost all 50 states have added Section 208 language into their election codes to provide guidance on implementing Section 208. However, some state interpretations pose significant barriers for LEP voters to receive this assistance and exercise their right to vote. Many LEP citizens are not even aware of this right to assistance. And poll workers are often unfamiliar with Section 208, and refuse to allow LEP voters to bring someone into the voting booth.