LOS ANGELES (Nov. 8, 2012) — The Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, conducted poll monitoring at over 230 election precincts and 190 poll sites in Los Angeles and Orange counties on Election Tuesday.
APALC deployed over 120 trained volunteers to areas with large Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) populations to ensure that voters had access to language assistance and were not turned away.
In Los Angeles County, monitors fanned out across the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, Cerritos/Artesia, and Asian American neighborhoods within the City of Los Angeles. In Orange County, monitors were dispatched to sites in Fullerton, the Garden Grove/Westminster area, and Irvine. APALC poll monitors observed whether voters had access to federally-mandated language assistance and were treated fairly.
Under federal law, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and other jurisdictions across the country are required to provide assistance to Asian American voters in the form of translated voting materials and bilingual election workers. Pursuant to federal law, Los Angeles County provides assistance in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Spanish, and Vietnamese, with the county providing assistance in Hindi, Khmer, and Thai this year for the first time. Orange County provides assistance in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
APALC’s poll monitors observed numerous poll sites where Asian American voters needed and used language assistance to cast their ballots. Monitors observed bilingual poll workers demonstrating to limited English proficient (LEP) voters how to use voting machines, helping voters with the provisional ballot process, and using their language ability to identify voters’ names in the roster of voters. Monitors also saw voters use other forms of language assistance such as written materials and voting machines. For example, at a site in Little Tokyo, a monitor observed an elderly Chinese American voter using a voting machine to listen to an audio version of the ballot in Mandarin.
However, monitors also observed many polling locations where language assistance was not available. Many precincts in Los Angeles and Orange counties had no bilingual poll workers present, including Los Angeles County in which over one out of five election precincts lacked bilingual poll workers who should have been present. In several instances, APALC poll monitors were able to help voters and ensure they could still cast their ballot. For example, a poll monitor observed a site in Rosemead with Vietnamese American voters who needed assistance but no Vietnamese-speaking poll worker. The monitor stepped in to assist an elderly Vietnamese American voter.
Missing or poorly displayed translated materials were also a frequent issue that monitors observed, including missing or inaccessible sample ballot pamphlets and statewide voter information guides. In most cases, APALC poll monitors were successful in getting poll workers to display the materials so they were visible. APALC also asked the county registrars to provide replacement materials where needed.
At a handful of sites, poll workers did not offer voters who were at the wrong precinct the option of casting a provisional ballot, instead sending them away to other precincts. At a few other sites, poll workers improperly asked voters for ID. APALC worked with the county registrars to correct the poll workers’ actions.
APALC’s poll monitoring work was part of a national voter protection effort spanning 10+ states. This effort was carried out by the members of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice – APALC, the Asian American Institute in Chicago, the Asian American Justice Center in Washington DC, and the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco – and community partner organizations. Collectively these groups sent close to 500 poll monitors to nearly 900 election precincts across eight states and also administered a first-of-its-kind voter hotline in several other states with APIAVote and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.