Bonta Introduces Bill to Advance ‘Voting Rights For All’

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has introduced AB 918, the ‘California Voting For All Act,’ which would make California the nationwide leader in providing language assistance to limited-English proficient voters. 

AB 918 will increase voter participation among Asian Americans, Latinos, and other minority communities across California by implementing reasonable steps to improve access. AB 918 would ensure that translated copies of ballots, known as facsimile ballots, are more available and more usable for voters. The bill would also provide training for poll workers on proper handling of these translated ballots.

Although California has voting laws which are stronger than the federal government requires, compliance with these state regulations by counties is not consistent.

Research conducted during the November 2016 General Election by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California (AAAJ) found that facsimile ballots were missing from some polling locations.  And those locations that had facsimile ballots did not post them in a conspicuous location, as required by law. AAAJ also found that elections offices do not adequately educate voters and poll workers are not well trained as to their availability.

AB 918 will create new language access requirements as well as help ensure compliance with existing language access laws for voters.

AB 918 will require counties to file a public report with the Secretary of State after every statewide general election documenting their performance in recruiting bilingual poll workers.  Voting statistics demonstrate the urgent need for this legislation.

“Less than 20 percent of Asians who are eligible to vote actually turn out,” said Bonta. “We have a serious problem. As the Chair of the API Caucus, it’s clear we must take action to ensure equal access to democracy.”

The impact on citizens who are not proficient in English is tremendous.

"This bill will make California a nationwide leader in ensuring access to voting for immigrant voters," said Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights Program Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. "As the state with the most immigrant voters and the most limited-English voters, California has an obligation to be on the leading edge of providing language assistance in elections."

“No American should be denied the privilege and duty of voting because of a language barrier,” Bonta said. “Our diverse voices and viewpoints must be heard. AB 918 is a common sense method to create greater civic engagement and ensure all citizens can fully participate in our democracy,” Bonta said.

The bill is joint authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - California and numerous voting rights organizations.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus.