The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is calling on the federal Department of Justice to bring election monitors to Queens County for the November 6 general election, after the city’s Board of Elections refused to comply with a law that requires Bengali-language ballots to be made available for Queens residences. The federal Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, mandates that ballots be translated to any language spoken by at least 5 percent of the residents of an area, or at least 10,000 voting-age people in an area. There are enough Bengali speakers in Queens to warrant translated ballots, but the BOE is only providing sample ballots in Bengali, citing technical difficulties with voting machines.
“Although the Board of Elections has offered to provide translated sample ballots, comparing a Bengali ballot to an English ballot is cumbersome for voters,” said an attorney for the civil rights group. “The use of translated sample ballots is a new and completely untested procedure in New York City. Moreover, there is little assurance that such translated sample ballots will even be at poll sites for Bengali-speaking voters to access.”
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