AB 554 Will Help Address Language Barriers and Encourage Youth Civic Engagement
SACRAMENTO (Aug. 11, 2015) — Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed several pro-immigrant bills including AB 554 (Mullin), which allows legal permanent residents or green card holders in high school to participate in their school’s poll worker program.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) championed the bill as a way to expand the pool of potential bilingual poll workers as well as to create a vehicle for encouraging civic participation by high school students (who cannot vote until they turn 18).
“Although bilingual ballots and assistance are required in many languages by federal law, many counties find it challenging to recruit enough bilingual poll workers to meet the needs of their voters. With the addition of high school students to the pool, many counties will now be able to ensure greater language access at the polls,” said Deanna Kitamura, Supervising Attorney in Advancing Justice – LA’s Democracy Project. “We worked closely with the counties to get AB 554 passed.”
AB 554 is a follow-up to AB 817, a bill conceived and co-sponsored in 2013 by Advancing Justice – LA and Advancing Justice – ALC. Since last year, AB 817 has allowed counties to recruit legal permanent resident adults as poll workers. Once AB 817 passed, counties realized they would also benefit from being able to recruit legal permanent resident, between the ages of 16 to 18 years old, to serve as poll workers.
“We thank the Governor, Assemblymember Mullin, and state legislators for supporting this bill. Civic engagement is a core value for our nation,” states Betty Hung, Advancing Justice – LA’s policy director. “Through AB 554, non-citizen high school students will both provide an important service to the community and also witness democracy in action. We hope that those who serve as poll workers will be inspired to become citizens and to vote.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles is the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of the AANHPI community while also building a strong AANHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.