After long hours of “Get Out to Vote” planning and implementation last Nov. 1, I had the chance to do volunteer work once again for an hour or two in nonpartisan, multilingual exit polls in Troy, Michigan. This was on Election Day (Nov. 4) after I had cast my ballot.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (AALDEF) coordinated the volunteer work. AALDEF is a national organization founded in 1974. Its mission is to protect and promote the civil rights of Asian Americans.
Its program combines litigation, advocacy, education and organizing by working with Asian Americans across the country to allow untrammeled exercise of human rights for all.
This 40-year-old civil rights organization, which is based in New York, dispatched 565 attorneys, law students and community volunteers to 147 poll sites in 11 states with large Asian American populations. They recorded voter complaints at the polling places.
There were early-voting problems reported on Nov. 4. I felt sad while I was reading disturbing reports about voting incidents that happened right here in Detroit.
A voter was made to feel inadequate about coming out to vote. We know that every voter should be motivated and encouraged to exercise his/her right to vote, and the voter should never felt embarrassed. Filling up a ballot is not like taking a test.
There was a case in Philadelphia where poll workers were taking advantage of voters who were not proficient in English. Thirty South Asian American voters complained about lack of interpreters.
At the Transfiguration church here in Michigan, several Bangladeshi American voters were unable to vote because of their limited English proficiency.
Most of the problems encountered by the voters who are not proficient in English is lack of interpreters.
A poll worker improperly assisted a voter when he himself pushed the button on the voting machine. He also told the voter to vote “yes” on all ballot proposals.
Another poll worker refused to allow an Asian American voter to use a translation phone line, insisting that the service does not work. The frustrated voter left without voting. Similar cases were reported in other cities.
AALDEF will make sure that these problems will not happen again. The Voting Rights Act should be upheld and should be fully exercised with the assistance of advocacy groups. AALDEF, though, needs more volunteers.