Language as a Barrier
Language was and continues to be a common barrier to voting for many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
English-only ballots and the A method of voting that ensures that all votes are cast in secret, so that the voter is not influenced by any other individual, and at the time of voting no one else knows who the voter chose can keep non-English speakers from voting. Many states now have multi-language ballots and/or allow interpreters to help non-English speakers to vote.
However, since the US Supreme Court found Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional in 2013, several states have put into place Voter ID laws that once again heavily discriminate against immigrants, the poor, and non-English speakers.
Refugees: Language and Education Barriers
AAPI communities established in the U.S. when seeking asylum following the Vietnam War face different voting challenges.
Refugees were given easier access to voting rights and citizenship compared to other immigrants. Even though many of them may have participated in voting activities for many years, they may not have access to voter education.
English proficiency may be very limited, and these communities are often overlooked by political campaigns and voter education. They may receive little or no information about issues that may be important to them, such as laws regarding voter ID or proposals for English-only ballots.
Neglected at the Ballot Box
Political candidates may assume that non-English speakers are ineligible voters and so campaign resources and time are not given to these communities.
Older and new immigrant AAPI communities are often neglected and excluded from political education. Lack of clear directions in other languages may lead to non-English speakers to end up at the wrong voting place or to fill in ballots incorrectly due to the lack of an interpreter.
Phone banking at Asian American Organizing Project