On June 2nd, 2014, Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) attended the conference for Korean/Chinese Language Assistance Program hosted by the New York City Board of Elections. This conference has been held twice every year since the passage of Help America Vote Act in 2002, and serves to improve the voting process for minority groups.
KACE put three items on the conference agenda.
The first item addressed the difficulty that Korean Americans had with the Board of Elections website despite the improvements made on the website. The website is not easily accessible and does not explain voter registration and voting process in a clear manner. In addition, the website does not provide voter registration form, mail-in ballot application form, and the election calendar in Korean. The board members agreed that those problems need to be fixed as soon as possible.
The second item on the agenda was revising the translated voter registration form. Last January, KACE brought up that the translation was incomplete. The form used many outlandish words that could be misleading to most Korean Americans. The Board of Elections agreed and has published new version of the form since. However, KACE’s Program Director, Chae No, pointed out that the new form had errors that need to be corrected. The Board stated that the new form is already being distributed and it would take too much time and money to make the revisions. The Board Director Michael Ryan suggested that the board congregates again to decide on the deadline for revision and re-distribution of the form.
The last item addressed the issues with mail-in ballot application form. Many Korean Americans have complained that the form uses erroneous words and has misleading instructions. The Board suggested that KACE holds a conference with the New York State Board of Elections. KACE will continue pressing this issue, and will continue to advocate voting rights and foster better understanding of the elections in the Korean American community.
The Board of Elections stressed that a consistent supply of Korean translators is needed, and asked the Korean American organizations for help; there is an insufficient amount of translators although the voting polls will need them more than ever this year.
KACE is recruiting translators to work at voting polls as part of its 8080 Campaign. One needs to be a New York City resident, 18 years old or above, and be fluent in both Korean and English to be considered eligible. Candidate needs to pass an exam and be trained, after which he/she receives 25 dollars. If he/she works at the poll site on the day of the election, he/she receives 200 dollars. If he/she works two times or more, additional 35 dollars will be added as a bonus. Please call 718-961-4117 for more information.
The Board of Elections voiced its concern about the lack of Korean translators. The list of back-up translators is empty. Two back-up translators are stationed at each poll site in case of emergency. But as of now, there are no ways to fill the void if a translator is unexpectedly absent.
There is another issue that stems from the lack of volunteers.
Translators and other assistants must be present at poll sites for 15 hours. It has been proposed that the working hours are reduced to 7 hours and 30 minutes. However, this proposal is pending due to the lack of available workers. The question that KACE gets the most during recruitment is whether the working hours can be reduced; this won’t be made possible unless more people apply.
Many parts of the voting process will be changed starting this September’s elections as well.
The listing of registered voters at poll sites, which has caused the most problem, will be changed. The list was organized by address, making it difficult for voters to find their names on the list. Starting this September, the list will be organized by voters’ last names. In addition, the age of the voter will be written next to his/her date of birth. This will save the trouble of calculating the voter’s age and reduce time.
Voter Card will no longer be distributed starting September. Voter card was used to differentiate between voters and non-voters. Voters will be given the Privacy Sleeve folder instead, which contains the ballot and voting instructions. Black folders will be used for regular ballots, and red folders for the affidavit ballots.
The Board of Elections asked the local media to advertise and promote. Most registered voters do not obtain their information from the Internet, meaning that consistent coverage by TV, radio, and newspapers is essential.