Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago dispatched poll watchers to monitor language and disability access during February and April municipal elections
CHICAGO – Today, on National Election Hero Day, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago is releasing a report that summarizes its nonpartisan poll watching observations from the 2023 Chicago municipal elections, using data collected by poll monitors who were dispatched to monitor language and disability access at the polls.
Federal laws set a baseline for localities to provide language assistance at polls, and local governments can provide additional protections.
“A city as vibrant and diverse as Chicago needs to have language access protections, beyond the federal requirements, to ensure that our democracy is inclusive and representative,” said Kimberly Leung, Voting Rights Legal Fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago.
The report, which was shared with the Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE), found that at most locations visited, 98 percent, translated ballots were available in the required languages. At the same time, the report notes that additional steps should be taken to make existing resources better known. According to the report, “Despite Limited English Proficient (LEP) assistance being available through features like touchscreen voting machines, our poll watchers shared that, when you enter a polling place, it is not clear that any assistance for LEP voters is available.”
The report also highlights the importance of hiring and retaining bilingual or multilingual poll workers.
Advancing Justice | Chicago identified several systemic areas for improvement including:
- Improving training so that poll workers are better equipped to assist LEP voters and voters with disabilities;
- Hire additional bilingual poll workers from the communities they are working in;
- Creating new polling place signs to increase visibility on the type of assistance and resources available for LEP voters and voters with disabilities; and
- Hiring staff with dedicated responsibilities to conduct outreach to Korean and Filipino communities.
During the February elections, Advancing Justice | Chicago monitored 105 precinct polling places. In April 106, precinct polling places and eight vote centers were monitored. Volunteers observed 99 percent of the designated Asian language precinct polling locations.
Advancing Justice | Chicago started its poll watching program in 2003. The program aims to ensure that all eligible voters have fair and equitable access to the polls, with particular attention to historically disenfranchised communities like Asian Americans and immigrants. Advancing Justice | Chicago will be monitoring the 2024 elections and is accepting new volunteers. To read the full report click here.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity. We do this by developing grassroots leaders, advocacy, and civic engagement.