Governor Signs Bill Promoting Greater Availability Of Bilingual Poll Workers

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LOS ANGELES, CA – Legislation allowing elections officials to recruit lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to serve as poll workers on Election Day was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on August 27, 2013.

Assembly Bill (AB) 817, introduced by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and sponsored by Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Advancing Justice-ALC, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, expands the pool of available bilingual speakers to serve as county poll workers while also providing civic engagement opportunities to LPRs. Commonly known as green card holders, LPRs are non-U.S. citizens who have been granted the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

“We are extremely pleased that Governor Brown signed AB 817 into law,” says Carolyn Hsu, staff attorney with Advancing Justice – ALC. “Over 2.6 million eligible voters in California are not yet fully proficient in English, including 47 percent of eligible voters who are naturalized. AB 817 is an innovative tool to ensure that these citizens have the language assistance they need to assert their right to vote and cast an informed ballot.”

“Pollworkers stand at the front line on Election Day, and making more bilingual poll workers available will help make California’s democracy responsive to the voices of all of its citizens,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund. “We look forward to working with community leaders and the media to promote this important new opportunity for LPRs to become more civically engaged.”

“Years of poll monitoring show that bilingual poll workers are not always available to voters who need language assistance,” says Eugene Lee, Voting Rights Project director for Advancing Justice – LA. We sponsored AB 817 because it will help change that. The bill also fosters immigrant integration by creating a vital new role for LPRs to facilitate democratic participation.”

AB 817 goes into effect January 1, 2014, in time for the 2014 elections.

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