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Poll Monitors in California Watch for Non-English Proficient Voters


Poll watcher Eddie Hu of the citizen group Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles is stationed on Election Day at a busy polling station in the San Gabriel Valley, a community east of Los Angeles with a heavy Asian population.

Los Angeles County provides voter assistance in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog — in addition to English — and volunteer poll watchers are stationed in neighborhoods where specific language skills are needed, from L.A.'s Chinatown to heavily Spanish-speaking East Los Angeles.

Poll watcher Eddie Hu of the citizen group Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles says the election is going smoothly at the polling station in the San Gabriel Valley, an area near Los Angeles with a large Asian American population. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

Poll watcher Eddie Hu of the citizen group Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles says the election is going smoothly at the polling station in the San Gabriel Valley, an area near Los Angeles with a large Asian American population. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

"Many of the new immigrants and the elderly are not proficient in English," Hu explained to VOA, speaking Mandarin. "We want to make sure there aren't any barriers or [that] language is not an obstacle for voters."

California has the greatest number of eligible voters in the nation who are not fully English-proficient, numbering more than 2.6 million, according to the civil rights group.

Chinese American Jeff Chang, 70, is not one of them. He is bilingual and reads voter guides in both English and Mandarin. He prefers the English version, which he says is clearer.

Jeff Chang, 70, says the global economy is the big issue in the presidential election. He voted for Hillary Clinton as president. "It's an important role," he said, "so we have to be careful to choose the right person." (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

Jeff Chang, 70, says the global economy is the big issue in the presidential election. He voted for Hillary Clinton as president. "It's an important role," he said, "so we have to be careful to choose the right person." (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

For him, the global economy is the overriding election issue. He says the presidency is a position of leadership in the world, and "we have to be very careful to choose the right person." He voted for Hillary Clinton.

Raymond Lee, 52, is a reluctant Clinton supporter who is not excited by either candidate. Lee is also fluent in Mandarin and English, and says he follows the news closely and considers Donald Trump a demagogue. He thinks this election an embarrassment.

"People in China, Middle East [are] all laughing at us," he said. "They have no respect for us anymore," he added. He adds that "America is at a crossroads now there's so much divisions in society," and complains that voters are too easily manipulated.

Raymond Lee, 52, is a reluctant Hillary Clinton supporter and considers Donald Trump a "demagogue," but worries that this election has made the United States a laughing stock. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

Raymond Lee, 52, is a reluctant Hillary Clinton supporter and considers Donald Trump a "demagogue," but worries that this election has made the United States a laughing stock. (M. O'Sullivan/VOA)

"One-third of all Asian Americans have some difficulty speaking English," said Deanna Kitamura, who directs the Voting Right Project for Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles, "and so that's why we know that language assistance at the polling place is so important."

By mid-day, Eddie Hu said things were going smoothly at his polling station in the San Gabriel Valley, and officials were reporting a solid turnout throughout California, where more than 19 million people are on the voter rolls, many with limited skills in English.

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