Voting Rights

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We believe in expanding and protecting the voting rights of AAPI and all immigrant communities to ensure full participation of all eligible voters in the electoral process. Many 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, immigrant communities, and limited-English speaking voters from receiving full and equal access to the democratic process.  

 

Voices of Democracy: The State of Language Access in California’s 2016 Elections

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California’s Voting Rights team is proud to release our groundbreaking report, “Voices of Democracy: The State of Language Access in California’s 2016 Elections.” 

Report results are available in infographic form here.

 “Voices of Democracy” is the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of the language assistance available to California’s limited-English proficient (LEP) voters. It is based on the findings of the nation’s largest poll monitoring effort in the November 2016 elections, in which 576 volunteers organized by Advancing Justice – California and partner organizations visited almost 1,300 polling places across California to determine compliance with federal and state language access laws.

The report’s findings show that the provisions of California state law supposedly guaranteeing translated ballot materials and bilingual poll workers to LEP voters are both not strong enough and not consistently complied with, and call for improvements to the state law.

As the state with the most immigrant voters and the most LEP voters, California has an obligation to be on the cutting edge of ensuring access to the ballot for diverse communities. The “Voices of Democracy” report includes not just findings from 2016 but also recommendations for how state law can and must be improved.

The California Voting for All Act (AB 918) would solve many of the problems highlighted in “Voices of Democracy.” You can see a fact sheet about AB 918 here.

We previously 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.

 

Know Your Voting Rights

If you are a California resident and are eligible to vote, you can register to vote here. Please see our Know Your Voting Rights page for educational resources in 11 different languages. (These resources are specific to the 2016 elections.) 

 

Past Redistricting/Districting Advocacy and Lawsuits

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.

Redistricting is especially important for communities of color, because redistricting has often been used to keep them from power (sometimes known as gerrymandering). 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 Northern California to testify before a Citizens Redistricting Commission. Our communities successfully advocated for the City of Daly City to 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 still used an at-large voting system for County Supervisor seats, which had the effect of diluting 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.

The lawsuit successfully brought a CVRA claim against the County, 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.

 

Voter Stories

Check out these stories of voters to learn about the importance of making every voice heard in our democracy.

Above: 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.

Above: 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.

Above: 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.

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