Breaking Barriers to the Ballot Box

Our democracy is under real and urgent threat, from rampant disinformation and a surge in voter suppression legislation to politicians deliberately showing distrust in election outcomes in order to maintain their own power. And while the state of California and counties in California have adopted various pro-democracy voting practices and procedures, reforms such as vote-by-mail ballots and ballot drop boxes are only beneficial if voters receive election materials in a language they understand. 

This report explores four key aspects of language access in California elections: the voting experience, federal and state laws, the importance of in-language materials, and data limitations for identifying populations in California who use non-English languages.

The report, the first of its kind, provides a roadmap to ensure that all voters, regardless of their English language proficiency, can vote fairly and equally. 


What’s holding back some California voters from casting a ballot? Language barriers | Opinion

Authored by 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California

AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund

ACLU of Northern California

ACLU of Southern California

Chinese for Affirmative Action

Council on American-Islamic Relations 

California Common Cause

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights 

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund 

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans 

What Voters in California Need to Cast Their Ballot

Many community members who were interviewed in the listening sessions emphasized a clear path forward for California, rooted in their experiences trying to register, understand their ballots, and cast their votes. Our listening sessions underscored that:

  • Californians should be able to register to vote and check their registration status in their language
  • A full understanding of what is on their ballot in their language is crucial to being an informed voter
  • Communities need all elections materials in their language to be a self-reliant voters, who do not rely on
    family and friends to translate

Counties should address the needs of voters who cannot fairly or equally vote because of the language they use. The proven solutions below are already making a difference in other states and should be implemented by counties throughout California.

You can find additional fact sheets here in English, Chinese, and Spanish.