The letters were sent to Counties with especially large limited-English-proficient minority language populations and ask that the jurisdictions provide election materials in the relevant languages.
The UCLA Voting Rights Project (VRP) released a dozen letters today addressed to leadership in counties in several states, urging them to provide election materials to accommodate large minority Asian language groups. These counties were identified to have some of the largest limited-English-proficient minority groups and were at or near the threshold for compliance under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. Nevertheless, these counties do not provide election materials like voter information pamphlets and absentee and regular ballots in the relevant minority languages.
Section 203 mandates, among other things, that covered jurisdictions provide all election materials in minority languages that are prominent enough to trigger the statute’s protection. Specifically, Section 203 covers those jurisdictions where there are more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total citizen voting age population in a single political subdivision (usually a county) who are members of a single language minority group, have depressed literacy rates, and do not speak English very well.
For each jurisdiction, the corresponding letter identifies which minority Asian languages are most prominent and instructs the county on the language access measures to best enable these residents to cast their ballot. The letters also offer translation services for election materials to bolster compliance with the VRP’s requests. The letters are part of a larger initiative to secure minority language voting access nationwide, which began with a letter to Fort Bend County, Texas in July.
“Access to the ballot is only meaningful if voters can easily understand its contents,” remarked Sonni Waknin, the UCLA Voting Rights Project’s Managing Legal Fellow.
The UCLA Voting Rights Project is an effort led by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. The organization has published widely on other ballot access issues. This includes several reports on the implementation of universal vote-by-mail for upcoming elections and a joint-report with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA on the safety and efficacy of different voting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.