Reps. Porter, Lofgren, and Chu Push to Expand Language Assistance for California Voters with Limited English Proficiency
Members’ request to the Secretary of State would help 2.5 million Californians vote safely by mail
U.S. Representative Katie Porter (CA-45), Committee on House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairwoman Judy Chu (CA-27), today urged California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to help voters get the in-language materials and language assistance they’ll need this fall. The Congresswomen led more than twenty of their California colleagues in asking that Secretary Padilla work with the Language Accessibility Advisory Committee to supply counties with early guidance so that more Californians can exercise their right to vote safely and securely in the 2020 election.
“Voting needs to be safe for all Californians this fall, regardless of their primary language,” Porter said. “With Election Day on the horizon, communities across California will have to prepare for the challenge of making sure everyone can exercise their right to vote without putting their health at risk. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues Judy Chu and Zoe Lofgren in requesting that Secretary of State Alex Padilla provide resources to help Californians with limited English proficiency stay safe this election season.”
“Every eligible American should be able to cast a ballot safely and accessibly, no matter the language they speak. I commend Secretary Padilla’s work to expand and protect access to the franchise in California. As election administrators prepare to bolster the resilience of our elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, language access must remain a core component,” explained Chairwoman Lofgren. “I look forward to California’s continued leadership on these matters in the months ahead and the lessons that can be shared with communities across our state.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has made mail-in voting more important than ever in order to ensure that millions of Americans are not forced to put their health at risk in order to exercise their right to vote. That is why we must also ensure mail-in voting is more accessible than ever. And that must include language access. This is particularly important in a diverse state like California, where we have a large Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including many who face language barriers to accessing the polls. We cannot let the virus threaten the integrity of our democracy or limit who is allowed to participate in it,” Chairwoman Chu said. “Enforcing the language access requirements in the Voting Rights Act will help guarantee that every voter’s voice is heard. I join my colleagues in urging Secretary Padilla to ensure that voting is accessible to all Californians no matter what language they speak.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of the California Secretary of State estimate that an estimated 2.5 million voters in California have limited English proficiency, which could pose additional challenges during the vote-by-mail process. Reps. Porter, Chu, and Lofgren have asked that Secretary of State Padilla take action to expand access to in-language materials and language assistance, similar to what would be available for in-person Election Day services and consistent with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. The Secretary has already provided helpful guidance for jurisdictions on meeting these requirements, but additional support may be needed in light of the new challenges posed by COVID-19.
In their letter to Secretary of State Padilla, the Representatives write, “Due to COVID-19 contagion concerns, this election will require an extraordinary expansion of mail in voting. We are concerned that language access may not be adequate if early guidance is not provided to our counties. We must take every step necessary to comply with the requirements of Section 203 and to maintain voting access for limited English proficiency voters.”
Read the full text of the letter HERE.