Language Rights in Voting
Voting can be a complicated process for anyone. For citizens whose first language is not English, the process is even more difficult to navigate. Nearly one-third of Asian Americans have some difficulty communicating in English, making voting that much more intimidating. Voters have rights to assistance in voting if they have difficulty communicating in English.
You may have the right to in-language assistance and materials when you vote
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain counties and jurisdictions to provide bilingual voting materials in communities with language minorities and limited-English proficient residents, was enacted by Congress in 1975 upon recognizing that certain minority citizens experienced historical discrimination and disenfranchisement due to limited English proficiency. This means that all information provided in English must also be provided in the covered languages, including written materials, oral assistance at polling sites, and publicity prior to Election Day about the availability of language assistance at polling sites.
Please see Section 203 Coverage Update Joint Report for an overview of the most recent Section 203 determinations in December 2016.
You can find more information about what Asian American languages are covered and in what jurisdictions here Advancing Justice 203 Factsheet 2016 Determinations.
To see whether your jurisdiction came close to meeting the latest Section 203 determinations, take a look at Just Missed Section 203 Coverage Jurisdictions Factsheet 2016 Determinations.
You have the right to bring someone to help you in the voting booth
One tool that LEP voters can easily use to participate in elections is to bring someone to help in the voting booth. Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act allows voters needing assistance because of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write, including voters who have difficulty with English, to bring someone into the voting booth to help them understand and cast a ballot.
Download our translated fact sheet on how Section 208 can help you.
English Fact sheet: Your Right to Bring Someone to Help You in the Voting Booth (Section 208)
Chinese (Simplified) (中文 (简) )
Chinese (Traditional) (中文 (繁) )
Vietnamese (tiếng Việt)
Call 1-888-API-Vote for in-language help on Election Day
On Election Day, Advancing Justice | AAJC and APIA Vote will be administering a national Asian-language Election Protection hotline, 1-888-API-VOTE or 1-888-274-8683. Voters can call in from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, and volunteers will be available to assist in Bengali/Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
Community Leaders' Guides to Language Access
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials provide language assistance guides below with hopes that election officials, policymakers, and community leaders will be ready to assist voters from different language backgrounds.
- Election Officials' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Election Officials' Guide to Providing Language: A Summary
- Policymakers' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Policymakers' Guide to Providing Language Access: A Summary
- Community Leaders' Guide to Providing Language Access in Elections
- Community Leaders' Guide to Providing Language Access: A Summary
A guide to ensuring language assistance to Asian American voters during elections.
An examination of national trends in language assistance and other voting problems, section 203 implementation, and best practices and recommendations.