Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 918, the ‘California Voting for All Act,’ which would be the first of its kind in the country to provide language assistance to limited-English proficient voters.
According to Bonta, the bill would increase voter participation among Asian Americans, Latinos and other minority communities across California by implementing reasonable steps to improve access.
The bill is joint authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) – California and numerous voting rights organizations.
AB 918 would ensure that translated copies of ballots be more available and more usable for voters. The bill would also provide training for poll workers on proper handling of these translated ballots.
Although California has voting laws which are stronger than the federal government requires, compliance with these state regulations by counties is not consistent.
Research conducted during the November 2016 General Election by AAAJ found that translated ballots were missing from some polling locations. And those locations that had translated ballots did not post them in a conspicuous location, as required by law.
AAAJ also reported that elections offices do not adequately educate voters and poll workers are not well trained as to their availability.
“This bill will make California a nationwide leader in ensuring access to voting for immigrant voters,” said Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights Program Manager at AAAJ – Asian Law Caucus.
“As the state with the most immigrant voters and the most limited-English voters, California has an obligation to be on the leading edge of providing language assistance in elections.”
Bonta’s bill would require counties to file a public report with the Secretary of State after every statewide general election documenting their performance in recruiting bilingual poll workers.
“Less than 20 percent of Asians who are eligible to vote actually turn out,” said Bonta.
“No American should be denied the privilege and duty of voting because of a language barrier,” he said. “Our diverse voices and viewpoints must be heard.”