Our Voting Rights Program works to expand access to the democratic process for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, immigrant communities, limited-English speaking Californians, and those who have historically been disenfranchised. Our goal is to ensure our communities have a voice in the institutions that govern their lives and fair opportunities to elect representatives who will fight for their priorities, from worker protections to immigrant justice to housing rights.
We work to achieve full participation by our communities in voting, census, and redistricting through a combination of policy advocacy, capacity-building and technical assistance, community education, and legal advocacy.
Every ten years, political boundaries must be redrawn to adjust for population changes. This is our collective opportunity to reimagine representation at all levels of government. Redistricting is especially important for communities of color, because redistricting has historically been used to keep us from power. How and where districts are drawn will often determine if a community can elect representatives of their choice. Whether a community is kept whole or split apart by district lines will also determine whether elected officials respond to that community’s needs.
For the 2021 redistricting cycle, Advancing Justice – ALC is convening organizations across California that work with Asian American and AMEMSA communities to empower them to shape state and local redistricting. We are providing resources and technical assistance, training, mapping capabilities, and opportunities for joint advocacy. Our statewide mapping and advocacy is in partnership with Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. Throughout our redistricting work, we strive to work closely with other communities of color, so that we can advocate for maps that give opportunities to all historically disenfranchised communities in California. Community resources on the California Redistricting process will be available soon.
With the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation, we are working on redistricting in jurisdictions in Texas and other states where there are fast-growing Asian American communities and opportunities to build power for cross-racial coalitions.
Advancing Justice – ALC runs the largest poll monitoring program in Northern California. In November 2020, our team of trained volunteers visited almost every voting location across thirteen counties. Our poll monitors check for compliance with language access and disability access laws, and make sure that voters can access the ballot without facing barriers, such as improper requests for ID or harassment.
During each election season, Advancing Justice – ALC prepares a wide range of voting rights and voter engagement fact sheets and resources, in more than twenty languages. You can find our 2020 resources here: Voting Rights Resources. We offer training sessions and workshops on voter registration and know-your-rights for first-time voters.
The Voting Rights Program engages in policy advocacy to make sure that elections systems are accessible to limited-English proficient voters, first-time voters, infrequent voters, and voters who live in all neighborhoods. As counties transition to the Voter’s Choice Act election model, we work to build capacity of community organizations and community leaders to make sure that the new voting system is implemented in a way that increases turnout for all communities and closes voter participation disparities.
The Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation has been working closely with the Advancing Justice – Atlanta affiliate to secure language assistance for voters in Georgia and protect voter rights at the polls. The affiliation led non-partisan get-out-the-vote phone-banking to reach Asian American voters for the November 2020 election and to help voters cure ballot and signature issues.
Past Cases and Campaigns
- Census: The 2020 Census has profound effects on representation, policy, and access to resources. Threats from the Trump Administration, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, created serious challenges to achieving a complete and equitable census count. Advancing Justice – ALC provided legal analysis, policy support, and technical assistance to a wide network of community based organizations to help get out the count among hard-to-count communities.
- California Voting Rights Act: Advancing Justice – ALC fought for better representation of Asian American and Latino communities in Sunnyvale and San Mateo (Satorre v. San Mateo) by pushing the jurisdictions to change from at-large elections systems–which can make it difficult for minority communities to elect the candidates they prefer–to district-based systems. Both jurisdictions have sizable Asian American and Latino communities, but very few representatives from their communities. We also supported communities of color in several jurisdictions undergoing shifts to district elections, including the cities of Redwood City, Vallejo, Fremont. The CVRA is an important tool for protecting minority voting rights. We have fought to defend the CVRA, including representing intervenor defendants in Higginson v. Becerra, a case challenging the law’s constitutionality, and filing an amicus brief in Kaku v. Santa Clara.
- Local Redistricting Reform: In 2019 and 2020, Advancing Justice – ALC worked with a coalition of voting rights advocates to pass Assembly Bill 849 (Bonta) and Assembly Bill 1276 (Bonta), bills that reformed how local redistricting is governed under state law, with the goal of ensuring public participation in local redistricting and putting guidelines in place that local jurisdictions must follow when drawing lines to reduce the possibility of gerrymandering.
- Elections Access: When COVID-19 swept through California in the lead up to the November election, we worked with a coalition of voting rights advocates to ensure that changes to California’s elections system included adequate in-person voting opportunities and voter education.
- Language Access in Voting: Advancing Justice – ALC and Advancing Justice – LA co-sponsored the California Voting for All Act (AB 918, Bonta), the strongest state-level language-access-in-elections law in the nation. You can see a fact sheet about AB 918 here. In 2019, we had an important partial victory in litigation against the State of California to clarify the meaning of state language access coverage. Starting in November 2020, 14 Asian languages that were not covered under state or federal law will be covered under state law, meaning translated facsimile ballots and other translated voting materials will be available in those languages.
Reports and Guides
Please see our resource pages for community education and training materials.
Voices of Democracy: The State of Language Access in California’s November 2016 Election, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – CA (2016)
Strengthening Democratic Participation: Voting Access by Limited English Speaking Asian Americans in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties, Advancing Justice – ALC and Asian Law Alliance (2012)