Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Civil Rights Groups Sue Secretary of State for Depriving CA Voters Language Assistance

LOS ANGELES — Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati filed suit today against Secretary of State Alex Padilla demanding increased access to language assistance for limited English proficient voters in California.  
 
Secretary Padilla provided a directive to county election officials in December that would deprive tens of thousands of California residents the language assistance to which they are entitled under state law. Some of the most severely impacted are voters who speak Spanish, Farsi, Arabic, Japanese, and Russian, but speakers of 34 different languages are affected. 
 
California is home to 6.8 million individuals over 5 years old who are limited-English proficient (LEP) -- the most in the nation. In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, over 2,500 voting age Arabic-speaking residents, 11,782 voting age Russian-speaking residents, and over 9,000 voting age Japanese-speaking residents are the most significantly affected. In addition, there are over 2,000 precincts in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties that were not covered because of the directive.  
State law says LEP citizens should be encouraged to vote and requires appropriate efforts to minimize obstacles to participating in elections. The suit calls on Secretary Padilla to reissue his coverage determinations so they are consistent with the California Elections Code. 
 
“There are thousands of precincts that will not receive the necessary language assistance under the current directive,” said Deanna Kitamura, voting rights project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. “We should not be creating additional hurdles in order for  groups to receive the language assistance they are entitled to under California law.”  
 
State law requires assistance for voters in each county or precinct where 3 or more percent of the voting age residents are members of a language minority and lack skills to vote without language help. That assistance includes providing access to translated fascimile ballots that voters can use as a reference while voting on an English ballot. Secretary Padilla improperly limited the scope of coverage when he determined the jurisdictions that are entitled to the assistance. 
 
“We hope a judge will correct this injustice so that voters, regardless of language ability, can participate fully and equally in the November election,” said Linda Lye, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “California should be at the forefront of encouraging robust voter participation by our state’s diverse communities.” 
 
“As the state with the most immigrant voters in the nation, California has an obligation to lead our nation in reducing barriers to voting for those with limited English skills,” said Jonathan Stein of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. “This is particularly true in an era in which the federal government and many states are trying to walk voting rights backwards.”  
 
The case, Asian Americans Advancing Justice v. Alex Padilla, was filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
Contact: 
Randy Bunnao, 213-241-0227 [email protected]
About Advancing Justice - LA: 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice-LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice.​
Monday, April 23, 2018
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