Some California Voters With Limited English Language Skills Faced Serious Problems in 2016 Election, New Study Shows

People vote inside a Boyle Heights restaurant in 2016. A new study of last fall's election showed problems for non-English-speaking voters in a number of California communities. (Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

California voters with limited English language skills were too often left on their own when it came to getting help casting ballots last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers.

The data raise significant questions about the effectiveness of a long-standing state election law designed to help those voters, and whether they will struggle more as counties are allowed to transition away from traditional neighborhood polling places.

“We’re talking about huge chunks of the electorate that are in danger of being disenfranchised,” said Jonathan Stein, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California.

The report comes as state lawmakers consider a bill to strengthen the rights of voters in communities whose primary language isn’t English. That proposal, Assembly Bill 918, faces a key legislative deadline in Sacramento later this month.

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