The New York City Board of Elections said it would translate ballots in Queens, New York, into Bengali for the Sept. 10 primary election. It is the first new language added in more than a decade, election officials said. The addition of Bengali-language ballots at 60 polling sites in Queens comes nearly two years after the federal government ordered the city to provide language assistance to South Asian minorities under a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The federal government had ordered the city’s English ballots to be translated into Spanish, and more recently Chinese, in 1993 and Korean in 2001, The New York Times reported. The move by election officials comes after the New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit July 2 against the board for failing to comply with the language assistance provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Seema Agnani, executive director of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, one of the plaintiffs whose group urged the board to provide voting assistance in Bengali, said in an AALDEF statement, “The board’s bureaucratic foot dragging has prevented many Bengali-speaking Americans with limited English proficiency from being able to fully exercise their right to vote. In New York City, as high as 60% of Bengali-speaking residents have limited English proficiency.”
The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act that had forced New York to seek federal approval for any proposed electoral change since the early 1970s, the Times said. But other provisions of the act, which remain in force, require the city to provide bilingual assistance.
City election officials said the Supreme Court ruling, which helps the city move ahead with a controversial plan to redeploy old lever voting machines in the primary, would not delay their plan to provide Bengali ballots.
Full Article: New York Vows to Provide Bengali Ballots after Lawsuit Filed.