More Asian American voters to receive language assistance in elections

December 8, 2016

Brandon Lee
773-271-0899 x200


Census Bureau releases new list of counties required to provide bilingual voting assistance

CHICAGO – The U.S. Census Bureau released the new official list of jurisdictions that are required to provide bilingual voting assistance under Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act. A review of the list by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation (Advancing Justice) reveals that Section 203 now covers 45 Asian language groups located in 27 counties, boroughs, census areas or cities. This includes six new Asian language groups that have been added to Section 203 coverage since the previous list was released in 2011.

“Section 203 breaks down language barriers by allowing voters to understand and participate in the election system, but proper implementation is critical its success,” said Terry Ao Minnis, director of census and voting programs at Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Advancing Justice will be working with community groups and election officials to ensure that Section 203-covered jurisdictions provide robust language assistance to limited English-speaking voters.”

“The addition of counties covered for Asian languages in California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Virginia reflects the growth of Asian American communities in various sections of the United States,” said Deanna Kitamura, voting rights project director at Advancing Justice-LA. “However, we are disappointed in the loss of coverage for five language groups: Hindi, Japanese, and Thai in Los Angeles County, Japanese in Honolulu County, and Filipino in Maui County. Many voters in these areas have relied on language assistance for years.”

Section 203 requires jurisdictions to provide language assistance if the number of eligible voters qualifying for such assistance meets certain threshold tests. Based on American Community Survey data, the Census Bureau determines those thresholds through an ongoing and in-depth survey that it sends to households to collect detailed data on the American population. Language assistance must be provided both before and on Election Day. Language assistance covers a multitude of areas including translated written materials, such as sample ballots, ballots and signage, bilingual assistance at poll sites, and publicity of the availability of language assistance to the covered language community.

Since the last determination in 2011, there are five new counties, boroughs, census areas, or cities covered under Section 203 for Asian language groups. In addition, a few new Asian language groups are covered now under Section 203 and three previously covered Asian language groups are no longer covered under Section 203. Currently, Section 203 covers Asian American voters in the following jurisdictions and for the following language groups:

Jurisdiction                                                      Covered Asian Language Group


Aleutians East Borough                       Filipino

Aleutians West Census Area                Filipino


Alameda County                                  Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese

Contra Costa County                           Chinese

Los Angeles County                            Cambodian*, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese

Orange County                                    Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese

Sacramento County                             Chinese

San Diego County                                Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese

San Francisco County                          Chinese

San Mateo County                               Chinese

Santa Clara County                              Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese





Honolulu County                                 Chinese, Filipino


Cook County                                       Asian Indian, Chinese



Lowell City                                          Cambodian*

Malden City                                         Chinese*

Quincy City                                         Chinese*


Hamtramck City                                  Bangladeshi


Clark County                                       Filipino

New Jersey:

Bergen County                                     Korean

Hudson County                                   Asian Indian*

New York:

Kings County                                       Chinese

New York County                               Chinese

Queens County                                    Asian Indian, Chinese, Korean


Harris County                                      Chinese, Vietnamese

Tarrant County                                    Vietnamese*


Fairfax County                                      Vietnamese*


King County                                        Chinese, Vietnamese


*    Asian American language groups marked with an asterisk are newly covered under Section 203

+    Maui County (Filipino) is no longer covered under Section 203.


“We are confident that in the next round of 203 determinations, Gwinnett County will be a covered jurisdiction for Korean and Vietnamese Americans,” said Javeria Jamil, staff attorney for Advancing Justice – Atlanta. “We have the numbers. We will continue to engage with our communities and Gwinnett County to advocate for in-language ballots and make our voices heard.”

Jonathan Stein, voting rights program manager at Advancing Justice-ALC, added, “While Section 203 has been a critical law in addressing barriers that Asian Americans face in exercising their fundamental right to vote, there are many other communities not yet covered by Section 203. Non-covered jurisdictions should consider what voluntary assistance can be provided to limited English-speaking voters. Community leaders in non-covered jurisdictions should continue education and outreach efforts around participation in the American Community Survey in the hopes we can add more jurisdictions in the next round of determinations.”

“Unfortunately, Cook County has not yet met the threshold to become a covered jurisdiction for Korean under Section 203,” said Andrew Kang, legal director for Advancing Justice | Chicago. “We will continue outreach to our communities to participate in the American Community Survey, as well as encourage use of Korean language sample ballots in select precincts across Chicago and Cook County, which were won through an advocacy effort last year.”

More information about Section 203 can be found at The full list of Section 203-covered jurisdictions can be found in the Federal Register notice.

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.