Our friends Helen Gym of Asian Americans United and Marian Schneider at the Advancement Project recently had an op-ed featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding what can be done to make voting more accessible for all Pennsylvanians.
In the aftermath of the 2014 midterm elections, Gym and Schneider offered alternative explanations, besides voter apathy, for why there was a record low turnout this year. One reason is that many people who want to exercise their democratic rights are still impeded from doing so.
One of the obstacles, wrote Gym and Schneider, is the lack of preparation and staffing in some polling locations. For example, a predominantly African American precinct in Chester initially had no election official onsite, which resulted in the location opening almost four hours late.
Another issue is that members of immigrant populations experience voting difficulties due to language barriers. The scarce number of interpreters providing language assistance at polling sites is a discouraging deterrent to the participation of several communities such as Pennsylvania’s Asian and Latino populace. In fact, this year, Philadelphia mustered only 11 Asian-language interpreters, not nearly enough to sufficiently assist the tens of thousands of voters.
As Gym and Schneider point out, some of these problems can be resolved directly and right away through steps such as “assigning bilingual translators to precincts with language needs.” Other possible solutions for improving the voting process, such as adding the option of online voter registration, will require more time.
Gym and Schneider concluded their op-ed by asking Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to make voting improvement a priority in the new administration.