[Nuri Han, NJ Program Director,(left) and Chejin Park, Staff Attorney, (right) are presenting the NJ exit poll analysis]

On June 5, 2012 New Jersey Primary Election Day, the Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) conducted nonpartisan exit polls at four Korean American concentrated poll sites, Recreation Center and Public School #1 in Fort Lee and Lindberg School and Senior Center in Palisades Park. The purpose of the exit poll was to understand Korean Americans’ voting pattern, improve Korean language election service, protect voting rights of Korean American voters, and research Korean American voter turnout. The KACE’s Korean American voter turnout research is particularly the first research in New Jersey.

 

Voter Turnout

According to the result analysis of the exit poll, the 2012 Primary Election Korean American voter turnout in Bergen County was higher than the total voter turnout. The total Korean American voters registered at the four poll sites was 1,341, but only 320 Korean American voters participated in voting, so the average voter turnout from the four poll sites was 24%.  According to the North Jersey, Bergen County’s total registration voters are 527,820, but only 61,221 voters voted on Primary Election day, so total voter turnout was 11.6%. Therefore, Korean American voters’ voter turnout is higher more than twice.

[Table 1]

Poll Sites

Fort Lee

Palisades Park

Total

Public School #1

Recreation Center

Lindberg School

Senior Center

Total Korean American Voters

66

283

638

354

1341

Korean American Voters who voted on June 5

16

116

104

84

320

Korean American Voter Turnout

24%

41%

16%

24%

24%

 

Exit Polling and Survey Participation

Following the rules of exit polling for nonpartisan public interest groups, the KACE and volunteers conducted surveys to the voters who were leaving the polling place after voting for the whole voting hours, 6am to 8pm. Due to the rule to conduct exit polling out of 100 feet of the polling place, it was impossible to approach and conduct survey all Korean American voters leaving polling place. Despite the restriction, the KACE pollsters conducted exit poll survey average 48% of Korean American voters who voted in Primary Election day at each poll site.

 

Age

The most participated age group of Korean American voters in the Primary Election was the 70s (36%). The following age groups were the 60s (27%) and 50s (11%). The Korean American voters in their 70s and 60s compose 63% of total voters who participated in the Primary Election. Korean American voters over 50s compose over 80% of the total Primary participated voters. Other age groups’ voting participation was lower than 10%.

Considering the age ratio of the KACE’s New Jersey Korean American Voters data, the major age groups of Korean American voters mostly did not vote in this Primary Election. The most age groups of Korean American voters in New Jersey are the 40s and 50s (20% each). The followings are the 30s (17%), 60s (5%), 20s (13%), 70s (10%). The two major age groups voted in the Primary Election were 70s and 60s, but these two age groups compose only 15% of total Korean American voters. This result shows critical issue of low voting participation of young Korean American voters under the 40s.

 

Gender

Gender ratio of Korean American voters who participated in the Primary Election is fairly even with 53% of male and 47% of female voters.

 

Birth Place

Almost all (95%) Korean American voters participated in the Primary Election was born in Korea. This result seems it is because most Korean American voters who participated in the Primary Election were those over 50s who are mostly the first generation immigrant.

 

Years in the US

Among the Korean American voters who responded to born in Korea, Korean American voters who stayed in the U.S. for 20 years to 29 years were the most participating group (44%). The followings are the 30 years to 39 years (35%), 10-19 years (17%), and more than 40 years (4%). There was no Korean American voters born in Korea and stayed in the U.S. less than 10 years. The main cause for this result might be the survey respondents’ age and interest in U.S. politics and election. Assuming an individual’s interest in the U.S. politics and election affect the result, it might show that most Korean immigrants become aware of the importance of voting and having interest in U.S. politics from their 20th year of immigration.

 

English Proficiency

Most Korean American voters who voted in Primary Election responded that their English proficiency level was moderate. Reading was the most proficient English skill to the Korean American voters. This high English reading skill means that written election materials will actually help Korean American voters to understand voting process and participate in voting.

The Census Bureau defines limited English proficiency (LEP) as speaking English “less than very well”. The 80% of Korean American voters in the Primary election were LEP voters. Considering the national LEP population rate (8.7%), Korean American voters’ LEP level is critically high.

The 2012 LEP Korean American voters are increased compared to those in 2008. According to the 2008 exit poll data of the KACE and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Korean Americans had the highest concentration of LEP voters, with more than half (54%) identifying themselves as LEP. Therefore, Korean language assistance and bilingual ballots are crucially needed to preserve access to the vote.  

 

Difficulty Voting in English

The result shows how many Korean American voters felt difficult voting in English. More than one in four (26%) Korean American voters reported as difficult to vote in English. Regarding most respondents’ long immigration years, this result shows the high LEP level of Korean American voters and critical need of Korean-speaking poll worker.

 

Use of Korean Election Materials

Almost 40% of Korean American voters used Korean election materials, such as Korean-translated signs, posters, and ballots. This result shows that many Korean American voters actually use the Korean-translated election materials and get help from those in voting.

Still, some LEP Korean voters who really need Korean written language assistance could  not use Korean election materials. Almost half (42%) of the respondents who experienced difficulties in voting in English reported that they did not use Korean translated election materials. This result might imply that many LEP Korean American voters who experienced difficulty voting in English could not have proper access with written language assistance. Bergen County should provide enough number of easily accessible and understandable election materials to preserve LEP Korean American voters’ access to vote.

 

Assistance of Korean-Speaking Poll Worker

Half of the Korean Voters in the Primary Election received assistance from Korean-speaking poll worker. This result shows how much Korean American voters need oral bilingual language assistance.

However, many LEP Korean voters who really need Korean oral language assistance could not receive assistance from Korean-speaking poll worker. Almost 40% of the respondents who experienced difficulties in voting in English reported that they did not use Korean poll worker. This result might imply that many LEP Korean American voters who need bilingual assistance to vote did not use the assistance because the assistance might not be able receive the necessary language assistance.

Although many as 80% of Korean American voters are LEP voters who really need language assistance, there was no Korean-speaking poll worker at some poll sites. In fact, among the KACE’s four exit poll places, there was no Korean-speaking poll worker at Fort Lee Public School #1. Some of Korean American voters reported to the KACE exit pollsters that they would give up participating in voting because there was no Korean-speaking poll worker who can help them. From all twelve poll sites in Fort Lee, seven poll sites did not have Korean-speaking poll worker. According to the KACE’s Korean American voters per poll site data, about 634 Korean American voters at the seven poll sites, especially at least 164 voters who had difficulty in English, could not receive any oral Korean language assistance at poll sites.

[Table 2]

Fort Lee

District

Korean Poll Worker

Korean Voters

Fire Company #4

1,2

N/A

108

Horizon Towers South

3, 4, 17

N/A

102

Senior Citizen Activities Center

8

N/A

61

School #1

9

N/A

66

Judge Moore House

10

N/A

185

Fort Lee Youth Center

13,14,18

N/A

82

Ambulance Corp Building

19

N/A

30

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Bergen County in New Jersey should provide sufficient number of Korean-speaking bilingual poll worker or interpreter to provide language assistance to LEP voters.

 

Difficulty for Not Translated Candidates’ Names

On this Primary Election ballot, there was no Korean translation of candidate names. Almost 30% of Korean American voters reported they experienced difficulties for the not translated candidates’ names. According to the Section 203, election officials should ensure complete translation of ballot information by using phonetic translation of candidate names.

 

Election and Candidate Information Resource

More than half of the Korean American voters responded that they receive election and candidate information from Korean media (52%). The next major resources for the election and candidate information are sample ballot (22%), and English media (12%). Korean American voters’ dependency on other informational resources is low. Although some Korean American voters receive the information from sample ballot, it would not be sufficient to know the candidates information.

The 71 % of the respondents who experienced difficulty for the not translated candidate names reported that they acquire the election and candidate information from Korean Media.

This result shows that Korean American voters significantly depend on Korean media for the election and candidate information. For the reason of limited budget, Bergen County currently provides election information only in two major English media.

 

Korean Media

Among the Korean media, the result shows that the Korean American voters receive election and candidate information mainly from Korean TV (43%) and Newspapers (41%). The reason for low informational dependency on radio might be because most of the voters in 2012 Primary Election were over 60s who do not drive a car and listen to radio little. Most radio listeners would be young drivers who rarely participated in this election. This result shows that the Primary Election Korean Americans voters’ political opinions might be based primarily on Korean TV and Newspapers. 

 

Community Outreach from Political Party and Candidate Campaign

Nearly half of the Korean American voters responded that political parties or candidate campaigns have contacted them. Although many Korean American voters received contact from political parties or candidate campaigns, only 5% of Korean voters responded that they received election and candidate information from candidates. This result might show that the oral or written contacts from candidates might not be in Korean so that the LEP Korean American voters could not acquire satisfactory backgraound information about this election.

The most frequently used contact medium toward Korean American voters by political parties or candidate campaigns were mail (50%) and telephone (42%).

 

KOREAN AMERICAN CIVIC EMPOWERMENT
NEW YORK OFFICE: 163-10 NORTHERN BLVD. #307 FLUSHING, NY 11358 TEL: (718) 961-4117 FAX: (718) 961-4603
NEW JERSEY OFFICE: 185 BRIDGE PLAZA N SUITE 306 FORT LEE, NJ 07024 TEL: (201) 488-4201