Voter ID Laws an Extra Challenge to Asian Americans

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In an election year where just a handful of votes could sway a tight election, some states are enacting laws to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Voter identification laws have been passed or modified in 10 states since 2010 when Republicans made big gains in national politics through the Tea Party movement. Critics say these voter ID laws disproportionately affect voters who come from traditional minority communities.Although much attention has been given to African American and Latino voters these laws may have an even greater affect on Asian American voters. Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is being challenged on just that idea. Due to the diversity of language, foreign name structure and customs, voter rolls are frequently fraught with clerical errors that could cause legally registered voters to be turned away at the polls.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania are backing a lawsuit to block implementation of the Pennsylvanian new voter ID law. The groups filed an amicus brief to ask for reconsideration of an Aug 15th ruling denying an injunction against the new law.

“Pennsylvania’s voter ID law disenfranchises Asian Americans and prevents racial and language minorities from exercising their fundamental right to vote,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of AALDEF.

Under Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, all eligible voters must present government-issued photo identification in order to vote. If there are discrepancies between the name and format of the ID and the voter rolls, then the poll workers will have what the brief calls “unfettered discretion” in potentially preventing people from casting their vote.

Asian Americans are the fastest growing population group in the United States with over 70 percent becoming naturalized citizens by passing english proficiency and citizenship tests.

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