Voting Rights Act Expands Bilingual Voting Assistance to More Communities

by Jim Bea Sampaga

The Voting Rights Act has expanded its Section 203 to require election officials to provide bilingual voting materials and assistance to Asian Americans, Latinos, American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

The Section 203 of the Voting Rights Acts provides electoral process assistance to communities with large numbers of people with limited English proficiency.

According to Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, Section 2013 aims to effectively reach protected voters by determining what languages or dialects are commonly used within a community.

“Under Section 203, a successful program should be tailored to needs of the local language minority community, after close and ongoing consultation with that community. Even within the same county, what works best to reach one language minority community may not work as well to reach others in a different community,” Clarke said.

With the inclusion of more minority speakers, community leaders share their support to regarding the announcement.

“The expansion of Section 203 coverage reflects the diversity and rapid growth of the Asian American community, which has for decades been the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S.,” said non-profit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice in a statement.

“Despite our population growth, Asian American communities continue to face disparities in voter registration and voter turn-out, but this is changing. Asian American voters are a notable part of an increased turn-out among voters of color. Improved language access, coverage, and compliance with Section 203 will help change disparities in voter participation.”

For Hawaii State Senator Bennette Misalucha, the announcement means increasing the voter turnout among the Filipino community.

“I believe this will increase access to and provide a greater understanding of our democratic process, allowing more of our neighbors to vote with confidence. Filipinos are the second-largest ethnic group in Hawaii, with many who do not understand English well or at all – this should not be a barrier to voting or why their voice is not heard,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to the positive outcomes of this legislation in increasing voter turnout amongst Filipinos and other minority groups, and in the long term, a more just and fair elections process for everyone.”

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