CA Voting for All Act hopes to tackle voting language barriers
SACRAMENTO, CA — Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the first Filipino-American elected to the California legislature, says he is making sure that his fellow kababayans, along with Asian and Latino Americans, can vote without any problems due to language barriers.
He, along with the support of fellow elected leaders and various organizations, introduced AB 918, or the California Voting for All Act.
“AB 918 aims to provide stronger language assistance in voting for limited English proficient voters, and addresses each of the current deficiencies and state law,” Bonta said.
AB 918 ensures translated copies of ballots — or facsimile ballots — be made available to voters whether in-person or by mail.
The bill would also provide training for poll workers on proper handling of these translated ballots.
Counties would also be required to put translated signage at polling places.
Moreover, counties would have to submit a report after every state-wide general election documenting their performance in recruiting bilingual poll workers and require the secretary of state to post the report online.
The Asian Americans Advancing Justice in California has posted a new study based on voting deficiencies during the November 2016 general elections.
“We went to 25 counties and we went to almost 1,300 poll sites,” said Deanna Kitamura, voting rights director of Advancing Justice. “And what we found was a stark difference of what our election officials are doing, what our counties are doing, in providing bilingual poll material to our voters.”
Facsimile ballots were missing from a variety of polling locations, and poll workers were not prepared to assist limited English proficient voters who were experiencing problems.
“They have to hold their English ballot in their hand and have to toggle back and forth between the English ballot in their hand and the translated reference documented on the wall,” said Jonathan Stein, voting rights manager, AJ-ALC. “They are denied the private vote [which] California offers to every other voter.”
According to Bonta, due to an average of $5 million in statewide appropriations, he estimates the cost to counties at $100,000 or less to pay for facsimile ballots and extra signage.