The New Jersey elections site has expanded its reach by now featuring a Gujarati language option.
This year during the November general election, the state’s Division of Elections began publishing candidate statements and public questions on its website in Gujarati and Korean, in addition to Spanish and English, according to a philly.com report.
This will help the roughly 200,000 Asian Americans in New Jersey who stay away from polling places during elections to be able to vote, the report said.
The language accommodations reflect the state’s shifting demographics, particularly in North and Central Jersey. More than 300,000 Indians and 98,000 Koreans call the state home, according to U.S. Census data from 2014, the report said.
New Jersey has the third highest number of foreign-born residents in the United States, after California and New York, it added, citing a Pew Research Center report.
According to the report, Indian Americans Sharmista and Sudhir Patel, originally from Samarkha, Gujarat, say adding their native language to the election materials “feels special.”
The main focus for the family, according to the report, is the healthcare debate.
Indian American state Assemblyman Raj Mukherji said voting accommodations benefit first generation immigrants most, it said.
“Older generations have kids that go to schools here, they are paying taxes, they are naturalized citizens, but they are still not fully comfortable with the English language because they came here later in life,” said Mukherji in the report, adding that about 110,000 people in New Jersey speak Gujarati — the most of any state.
Still, voting rights advocates argue there’s work to be done, the philly.com report added.
Philadelphia and New Jersey offer language assistance only up to the point required by the Civil Rights Act, said Jerry Vattamala, director of the democracy program for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
One must scroll through menu options in English to find translated candidate information on New Jersey’s Board of Elections website, Vattamala said. No counties translate physical ballots unless required, it said.
Philadelphia’s Board of Elections places interpreters at some polling stations, he said, but doesn’t translate ballots into any Asian language. His organization filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in 2014 that is pending, according to the report.