Targeting Asian Americans: New Laws Criminalizing Voter Assistance Spark Concerns of Voter Suppression

Asian American communities in the United States are feeling particularly targeted by new laws that criminalize those who assist voters. For decades, organizations like the League of Women Voters in Florida have played a crucial role in helping marginalized residents register to vote. In recent years, their efforts expanded to include Asian American and Asian immigrant communities. However, a state law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May would have forced these organizations to change their strategies.

Under the legislation, third-party voter registration organizations would have faced a $50,000 fine if their staff or volunteers, involved in handling or collecting registration forms, had felony convictions or were not U.S. citizens.

Although a federal judge recently blocked this provision, its passage reflects a broader effort by DeSantis and other Republican leaders to restrict access to the ballot. Similar voting rules have been enacted in at least six states, including Georgia and Texas, since 2021. These rules have increased criminal penalties and fines for individuals and groups assisting voters, leading to legal challenges in some cases.

As a result, voting rights advocates are being forced to quickly adapt to this changing environment. For example, the League of Women Voters began using online links and QR codes for outreach before the Florida ruling. However, this shift to digital tools has removed the personal connection between workers and communities, potentially creating a technological barrier.

Targeting Asian Americans: New Laws Criminalizing Voter Assistance Spark Concerns of Voter Suppression


Leah Nash, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters, expressed concern about reduced access, particularly for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in the state. Florida has seen a significant growth in its AAPI population, with over 30% of adults having limited English proficiency. Nash explained that simply providing a website or QR code for voter registration may not be as effective as in-person assistance, as there is no certainty if individuals are completing the registration process.

The new laws, predominantly implemented in Republican-led states, have instilled fear and confusion among groups that provide translation services, voter registration assistance, and support with mail-in ballots. These roles are considered vital for Asian communities, which already face language barriers hindering their access to the ballot. Census data shows that the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations grew by 35% between 2010 and 2020. Many voting groups view these laws as another form of voter suppression.

In Georgia, for instance, record turnout in the 2020 elections influenced the Republican-dominated legislature to pass sweeping voter restrictions. According to Meredyth Yoon, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, these laws specifically target limited English proficiency voters, including AAPI voters.

Similarly, in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill in June that elevated the penalty for illegal voting to a felony. Alice Yi, a Chinese American who used to assist with translation in Austin, Texas, expressed concerns about the vagueness of the new law and fears potential consequences for making good faith mistakes while offering assistance. She recalled an incident during a 2022 primary election where she hesitated to help a Vietnamese American man who approached her seeking assistance with voting due to language barriers.

As a result of these new laws, individuals like Yi feel constrained and are limiting their voter assistance activities out of fear of potential legal repercussions.


Read more news at Newstanbul media 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *