We believe in expanding and protecting the voting rights of API communities to ensure full participation of all eligible voters in the electoral process. We do this because voting is the cornerstone of our American democracy. It is one of the central ways in which average citizens can exercise their voice and power. However, many Asian American immigrants still face unnecessary barriers to accessing the ballot. Discrimination rarely manifests overtly in California today, unlike voting problems seen in other states, but there are many ways that discrimination still plays an unseen hand in preventing Asian Americans from receiving full and equal access to the democratic process. Advancing Justice – ALC’s voting rights program focuses on strengthening voting systems for the benefit of all Americans.
Cases and Campaigns
California Voting For All Act
Advancing Justice – California is sponsoring the California Voting for All Act, state legislation that would make California a nationwide leader on ensuring language access in the voting process for limited-English immigrant voters. The bill is carried by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, head of the legislature’s API Caucus. As the state with the most immigrant voters and the most limited-English voters in the nation, we believe California must be on the cutting edge of making translated ballots and bilingual poll workers available. The California Voting for All Act is a key part of building an accessible, inclusive, and diverse democracy in our state. Read more here.
Voting Rights Act Poll Monitoring
Since 2000, we have collaborated with a number of national and local organizations to monitor elections for compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, which Congress enacted to combat racial discrimination and to break down barriers to voting. Section 203 of the VRA requires that emerging immigrant communities receive language assistance, both written and oral, throughout the voting process.
In 2016, we will be working with community organizations and elections officials in not just the five Northern California counties that are required to provide a bilingual voting experience under federal law but also 12 additional Northern California counties that have more limited language access requirements under state law.
Together with community partners, we monitored hundreds of poll sites in the 2010 and 2012 elections in Alameda, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Our 2012 findings were released in the Section 203 Voices of Democracy 2012 report produced by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation.
Every ten years, political boundaries are redrawn to adjust for population changes. Districts must be redrawn so that each elected official is representing approximately the same number of people. It is a complex process and many Californians do not or are unable to provide input on how the boundaries should be drawn so as to avoid dividing communities. Redistricting is especially important for communities of color, who have historically been disenfranchised and kept from power. How and where districts are drawn will often determine if a community can elect representatives of choice to sit on local school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and Congress. Whether a community is kept whole or split apart by district lines will also determine whether elected officials respond to that community’s needs.
Throughout 2011, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus participated in a statewide effort with the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting (CAPAFR) to ensure that Asian American communities were kept whole by new district lines and had the ability to elect candidates of their choice. Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus brought together diverse communities in the Northern California region to testify before a new Citizens Redistricting Commission and explain why ethnic neighborhoods should be kept together. Our communities successfully advocated that the City of Daly City be kept whole, instead of being broken into two Legislative Districts, as was the case in 2001. We also ensured that the Excelsior and Visitacion Valley areas of San Francisco were united with the Bayview, SOMA, and Chinatown in the same Assembly district.
As an active participant throughout the 2012 San Francisco redistricting process, we worked with a number of community based organizations to ensure that communities of color and LGBT communities remained intact. We will and do participate in local redistricting processes on behalf of Asian American communities and will be active in statewide coalitions on behalf of California’s Asian American populations during the next decennial redistricting.
Satorre v. San Mateo
In 2011, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus joined as co-counsel with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the firm, Arnold & Porter, in a lawsuit against the County of San Mateo alleging claims under the California Voting Rights Act. San Mateo was the only county remaining in the state of California that used an at-large voting system for County Supervisor seats that diluted minority vote. Over the preceding two decades, the Asian American and Latino communities had grown tremendously but Asian Americans and Latinos had been unable to win Supervisor seats. This lawsuit successfully brought a claim under the California Voting Rights, replacing the at-large election system with a by-district election system that created increase access to power for communities of color and included a majority-minority Asian American district.
Check out these stories of voters to learn about the importance of protecting language access at the polls!
Carlito Pantig, a caregiver and community activist from San Francisco, CA, shares his journey as a protector of the ballot in the Philippines and his perspectives on voting in the U.S. Film by John Liau.
Jenn Ngu, a psychology student at City College of San Francisco, shares her excitement about her duty and opportunity to vote for the first time in this election. Film by John Liau.
Anh-Tuan Tran, a teacher from Alameda, CA, shares his journey from Vietnam to the U.S. and encourages the younger Vietnamese generation to cherish and exercise the right to vote. Film by John Liau.