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Chicago voters who need verbal help in polls get it less on Election Day

Chicago voters who need language support may get an unpleasant surprise on Election Day.

For Filipino-spoken Tagalog, the number of precincts equipped to accommodate Tagalog plummeted from 17 during the primary election to just one precinct.

Responsibilities of communities and advocacy groups Arrangement of precincts By the Chicago Electoral Commission, which reduced the number of constituencies, 2,069~1,290.

The shrinking districts, mandated by new state laws partly to reduce administrative costs, have had negative, if unintended, consequences for voters with limited English proficiency, they say.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, about 15% of Chicago’s voting-age population is considered “limited English proficiency.” However, for an entire district to be designated as having “limited English proficiency,” at least 5% of the population must be “members of a monolingual minority group, have low literacy, and speak English very well.” No “must”. According to the U.S. Department of JusticeVoters in such constituencies have the right to bilingual printed materials and bilingual electoral judges.

“Since the precincts have become wider due to the recent integration, [limited English proficient] That 5% threshold is no longer met, according to Kimberly Leung, voting rights legal fellow at Asian American Promoting Justice Chicago, one of the groups sounding alarm about language access in particular for Asian immigrants. Not.

The total number of constituencies with limited English proficiency dropped from 970 in the June primary to 623 overall, according to figures provided by the Chicago Board of Elections. District counts decreased in all languages ​​covered, including Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Hindi, Tagalog, and Korean, although some communities experienced greater decreases than others. I was.

As the number of constituencies with limited English proficiency has decreased, so has the number of such polling places, some of which house multiple constituencies.

“Extreme Crunch”

Chicago Electoral Commission spokesman Max Bieber said the consolidation of the limited English-speaking precincts was done using community survey data.

Ami Gandhi, senior counsel for the Chicago Civil Rights Lawyers’ Board, said the survey data “is one piece of the puzzle, but it paints an incomplete picture.” Community, margin of error, linguistic diversity. Input from community leaders can clarify these nuances, she said. provided in a way,” she said.

A polling place at Jonathan Barr Elementary School in the Bucktown area during the November 2020 election.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times File

Leung, along with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, agrees. She said many language districts removed after falling below the 5% threshold could have been saved if community members and organizations had been consulted earlier. said local groups know best where immigrant populations live and have historically voted. She also said ensuring language access for immigrant voters was an ongoing issue, including the June primary, during which the board did not update voter information on various Asian-language websites. He said he was accused of

Leung said there is “room for more strategic and meaningful community partnerships” with the Chicago Electoral Commission. She added that the US Department of Justice’s guidelines “make clear that community involvement is essential to the implementation” of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.

Bieber, along with the board, said the agency was in “extreme predicament” to comply with new state laws that increase the number of voters per electoral district. The long and controversial redistricting process on the Chicago City Council Added to the time limit.

“While there was little time for meaningful community engagement, the board “consulted with city council members in each ward to identify potential vote access issues.”

He sent the board a list of 27 districts where several groups, including Asian American Advance Justice Chicago, may not meet the 5% threshold but could use additional language support. .

It will be too late to print election materials for the 27 precincts in other languages ​​on Nov. 8, but the board hopes to make these ballots available in the 2023 local elections, Biver said. . But he added that he plans to staff as many of the 27 constituencies as possible this year if the board recruits enough bilingual electoral judges.

Bieber added that recruiting sufficient numbers of electoral judges is a challenge not only for the limited number of electoral districts that are proficient in English, but for the entire constituency. said they have one touchscreen machine that can vote in 12 languages.

Language access is more than just translation

Al Cabagnot, 68, said these efforts are especially important for older Filipinos living in Chicago. Cabaño is fluent in English, but “other seniors, especially those from rural areas of the Philippines or those who have just become US citizens, have trouble understanding it,” Cabaño said.

Cavagnot said he and others have opted for the mail-in option, with many Filipinos going to vote in groups on Election Day or asking family members to help. added that those who missed the mail-in ballot window and those without family members need help.

Ryan Viloria, executive director of the Filipino Alliance for Migrant Rights and Empowerment, said the city should engage more with the community, not just leverage Filipino hubs like Seafood City. Language access, he said, is more than a pollster who “just points to a screen and hopes to get an equivalent phrase” in another language.

He said they are a part of the Filipino population while it is spread throughout the city “to the point of dilution”. Asian population growth In Chicago and Illinois, government officials need to do more to reach them.Viloria said so City saved $2 million by consolidating districtscould ultimately overwhelm electoral judges, weaken access to language, and “perhaps do us more harm in the long run.”

He added: “If the city doesn’t care enough to help get Filipinos to the polls, do they really care about Filipino political voices?”

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Community Desk.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/elections/2022/11/1/23432905/election-chicago-precincts-language-barrier-bilingual-ballots-assistance-census-voting-rights-act Chicago voters who need verbal help in polls get it less on Election Day

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