Op-Ed: Election equality long overdue

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STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY AND ASSEMBLYMEMBER DAVID WEPRIN

Last Friday, we joined many leaders of the South Asian community from across Queens to commend the Board of Elections for its plan to provide voter assistance in Bengali for the upcoming elections.

While we were heartened by the plan put forth by the Board of Elections, which would include translated ballots at 60 Queens polling sites and expanded language assistance, these necessary improvements to our election process are long overdue.

On October 13, 2011, the Census Bureau indicated that Queens County was required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide language assistance to Bengali-speaking voters. Since then, four primary and general elections have come and gone and Bengali-speaking citizens, 60 percent of whom have limited English proficiency, have not been provided the assistance they deserve to fully participate in our democratic system.

To live in, to work in and to vote in Queens is to be a part of one of the most diverse communities in our state. This diversity must be reflected in our electoral process.

We have been assured that the Board of Elections will follow through with their plan to provide Bengali language assistance in the upcoming primary and general elections, critical contests that will decide the future of our city.

Also on the ballot this November will be six constitutional amendments, including casino gambling. An informed electorate is essential in determining how to vote and voters need to understand these proposed amendments.

We also urge the state legislature to reconsider our bill that directs the Queens Board of Elections to provide written language assistance in Punjabi in addition to the languages currently available.

We’re both so proud to represent such vibrant communities made up of voices from all over the world. Now it’s time to make sure those voices, no matter if they’re English-speaking, Bengali-speaking or otherwise, are fully heard this coming Election Day.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents District 16 and Assemblymember David Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District. 

 

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