The Asian American Federation of Florida (AAFF) is a 501(c)(3) coalition that aims to unity and collaboration among the various Asian Pacific American organizations and to improve the relationship of a culturally diverse Asian Pacific American community in Florida. The AAFF is a statewide organization made up of more than 70 Bangladesh, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Iranian, Korean, Laotian, Taiwanese, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese community-based organizations, businesses and media.


Report Highlights How Voters are Denied Rights

State-by-State Barriers in Section 208 Implementation


Advancing Justice | AAJC released a new report this week, titled The right to assistance of your choice at the polls, which highlights how voters are easily denied their rights under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Advancing Justice | AAJC report highlights how voters can be denied their rights under Section 208, due to discrepancies in how each state’s law is written, enacted and implemented. Many states fail to train poll workers about the law, create restrictions on who voters can choose for language assistance and allow election officials unnecessary discretion over what the law allows.
 “Though the law applies nationwide, poll workers are unaware of Section 208’s right to a helper of the voter’s choice,” said Terry Ao Minnis, Advancing Justice | AAJC’s director of voting and the census and an author of the report. “In addition, some states place time limits on voting, create restrictions on who the voter can choose for language assistance, or allow election officers unnecessary discretion over what the law allows. All of this has led to voting rights violations and these discrepancies must be fixed.”
 Section 208 Background
Section 208 of the VRA says voters who have trouble reading and/or writing English for any reason can bring someone of their choice to help them in the voting booth. Roughly one in two Asian American adults (44 percent) have difficulty speaking English. A 2012 post-election survey of 6, 609 Asian Americans found that turnout among those who had difficulty speaking English was 9 percent lower than those who did not. Overall, in 2012, 8 percent of Asian Americans who have difficulty speaking English cited language barriers as a reason for not voting.

Congress found a correlation between language barriers and low voter participation, and passed Section 208 of the VRA to ensure that language does not stand in the way of casting a ballot. Advancing Justice | AAJC recommends that all states offer poll worker training on Section 208 and that election officials provide pre-election notice about the right to request language assistance. This could mean pre-election notices on official election websites, notice by mail or signage at polling stations. In addition, the report suggests the Department of Justice issue guidance on how states can best implement the section.

Election Protection Hotline
On Election Day, November 4, if voters need help at the polls, they should call 1-888-API-VOTE. This Asian-language Election Protection hotline, run by Advancing Justice | AAJC and APIAVote, will offer voters assistance from 7 a.m. until midnight EST on Election Day in Bengali/Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi/Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, as well as respond to possible voter discrimination concerns.

“Every eligible voter in the United States should be able to cast a ballot and participate in our democracy,” said Mee Moua, executive director and president of Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Ensuring that all voters know their rights at the polls is critical to their participation this November. As Asian Americans continue to grow in population, and turn out to vote, we must do everything we can to support their participation and make visible their political impact.”
For more questions about Section 208 and its implementation in your state, contact Terry Ao Minnis, director of census and voting programs, at tminnis@advancingjustice-aajc.org.

The law firm Hogan Lovells provided pro bono research support for the report.