Bonta Bill (AB 817) Protecting Fundamental Right To Vote Moves To Governor

Thursday, August 8, 2013

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is pleased to announce that his bill to increase language access for voters passed the Assembly today with a 48 to 22 vote and will now be considered by the Governor. “As the diversity of our state increases, new tools are needed to ensure that language assistance is available at the polls,” explained Bonta. “There are currently almost 3 million eligible California voters who are not fully proficient in English.  Without language assistance, these citizens face challenges in exercising their fundamental right to vote and casting an informed ballot. AB 817 helps ensure that our state’s voters have the resources necessary to participate fully in our democratic process.”

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.

Co-sponsors of the bill include the Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO).  Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund, Arturo Vargas, commended Assemblymember Bonta and the Legislature for recognizing that AB 817 will make California's democracy more responsive to the voices of all of its potential voters. “California's poll workers stand at the 'frontline' on Election Day, and their assistance helps ensure that all U.S. citizens, including those not yet fully proficient in English, can participate in the electoral process,” said Vargas.

“Limited English speaking voters struggle to cast their ballots when bilingual poll workers are unavailable to assist them,” explained Eugene Lee, Voting Rights Project Director at APALC, an organization which has spearheaded poll monitoring efforts for many years. “AB 817 will strengthen our democracy by promoting greater availability of bilingual assistance.”

Bonta concluded, “By allowing lawful permanent residents to participate in the elections process as poll workers, AB 817 will increase civic engagement and encourage progress along the pathway towards citizenship. I am confident that Governor Brown understands the challenges faced by the diverse voters in our state and will demonstrate that understanding by signing AB 817.”

Assemblymember Rob 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.