Two elected officials and a coalition of South Asian community leaders pushed for the passage of a bill that would put Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi on ballots and election material in the borough.
The bill, co-sponsored by State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember David Weprin, would direct the county’s Board of Elections (BOE) to provide written language assistance in Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi on ballots, signs, voter mailings, employee and volunteer training material and information on the BOE’s web site.
The legislation, Weprin said, would increase voter turnout at the polls and voter access.
“The growing South Asian community in Queens is highly focused on civic engagement,” Stavisky said. “We must pass this bill to make life easier for people who are simply trying to exercise their rights.”
Democratic District Leader Albert Baldeo, who was defeated in a tight Senate race in 2006, said the lack of languages on the ballot negatively impacted his run.
Baldeo said he lost by a very small margin — some 387 votes — during his failed try at election in the 15th District because “the minority vote was suppressed.”
“There are many instances of people getting sent away from the polls, people who were actually discouraged from voting from poll site workers, because there was no assistance to speak to them in their language or in written materials,” said Baldeo.
While Weprin said the BOE had raised concerns over the print on the ballot getting too small, a spokesperson said the agency has not yet taken an official stance on the matter.
There is only one week left to get the green light for the bill since the legislative session is scheduled to end June 21.