Assembly Passes AB 817 to Increase Language Access for Voters

Thursday, May 23, 2013

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) today announced the passage of AB 817 by the Assembly.  There are currently almost 3 million California voters who are not proficient in English.  In order to support and protect these individuals’ fundamental right to vote, the federal government instituted requirements for counties to recruit a minimum number of multilingual poll workers.  AB 817 assists both the voters and the counties in this process by allowing up to five lawful permanent residents to work at the polls and provide language assistance services on Election Day.

“As citizens, eligible California voters who are not fully proficient in English have a right to make fully-informed voting decisions on Election Day. AB 817 helps ensure that our state’s voters have the resources necessary to participate fully in our democratic process,” said Assemblymember Bonta.

The Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund are co-sponsors of the bill. Christopher Punongbayan, Acting Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus, stated, "in 2014, 57 counties in California will provide language assistance in multiple languages for the election, making our state the most linguistically diverse electorate in the country. AB 817 is an innovative approach to ensure that all voters across California have the adequate language assistance to fully and fairly exercise their fundamental right to vote."

Assemblymember Bonta concluded: “By allowing lawful permanent residents to participate in the elections process as poll workers, AB 817 will also increase civic engagement and potentially encourage progress along the pathway towards citizenship.”

AB 817 now moves to the Senate.

Assemblymember Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He is the Chair of the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee and the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay. He is a member of the Assembly Health, Transportation, Banking & Finance, and Elections & Redistricting Committees.