Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Chicago’s Voting Rights Project protects and seeks to advance the rights of Asian American voters through election poll monitoring and policy work. Through education and advocacy, Advancing Justice-Chicago works with community leaders to ensure that local election officials provide effective written and oral language assistance in certain Asian languages as required by Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act. In Cook County, Illinois, voters who speak Chinese or an Asian Indian language are entitled to certain language assistance, such as Chinese or Hindi translated materials and bilingual election judges at polling places. For more info about voting rights for limited English proficient (LEP) voters, including Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, please Advancing Justice—Chicago’s Voting Rights Resource page.
During each major election, Advancing Justice—Chicago works with individual volunteers, community-based organizations, and local bar associations to monitor precincts for Section 203 compliance. This monitoring, often referred to as “poll monitoring,” helps Advancing Justice—Chicago to collect useful information to be shared with election officials. Through this advocacy, Advancing Justice-Chicago and community groups can engage election officials on ways to improve access to voting for the community. In addition to poll monitoring and advocacy with election officials, Advancing Justice—Chicago also conducts voting rights workshops in the community to ensure that voters and the larger community are aware of their voting rights.
During the March 2012 Illinois Primary, Advancing Justice—Chicago’s poll monitors covered over 62 of the 113 precincts designated for Asian Indian language assistance in Cook County. As a result, Advancing Justice-Chicago was able to alert suburban Cook County election officials immediately of missing translated materials at several polling places which gave election officials the ability to get the translated materials out to those polling places before the evening rush of voters. During the November 2012 Presidential Election, Advancing Justice—Chicago’s poll monitors covered 80 precincts, including 11 of the busiest precincts in the greater Chinatown community. Advancing Justice-Chicago’s poll monitoring efforts could not have been accomplished at this scale without the financial and volunteer support of the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago, Indian-American Bar Association of Chicago and the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago.
For more information on Advancing Justice—Chicago’s poll monitoring in 2012, click here for Americans Advancing Justice’s national voting rights report Voices of Democracy: Asian Americans and Language Access During the 2012 Elections
In addition to advocating for improved bilingual voting assistance for limited English speaking voters, Advancing Justice—Chicago has led redistricting campaigns at both the state and local levels to advocate for political districts that do not fracture Asian American communities, or dilute the voting power of Asian Americans.