New law allows non-citizen election workers

County elections officials can use non-citizens as polling-place workers in order to translate for voters who don’t speak English, under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Rob BontaAssemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said his AB 817 will help counties meet federal and state law requiring language assistance at polling sites by drawing upon California’s pool of lawful permanent residents. Bonta issued a news release saying Brown “clearly understands the challenges faced by the increasingly diverse voters in our state related to civic engagement and participation.”

Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles – which was among the bill’s sponsors – said his group looks forward to working with elections officials to implement the law next year. “The bill will improve opportunities for voters who face language barriers to receive the assistance they need to fully participate in our democracy.”

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund also was among the bill’s sponsors, and executive director Arturo Vargas said it also will “provide lawful permanent residents a new opportunity to become more civically engaged.”

The bill emulates rules already in place that allow elections officials to appoint up to five high-school students per precinct as poll workers before they’re old enough to vote. The Assembly approved AB 817 on a 49-23 vote in May; the state Senate approved it 22-10 in July; and the Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments with a 49-25 vote earlier this month.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    From the sublime to the ridiculous.

    Why not just say that anybody can vote who walks in the door and anybody can be a poll worker who walks in the door.

    Full tilt boogie all the time.

    Responsibility and accountability? Forget about it. Old, outmoded concepts.

  • JohnW

    Why not? It’s just to be translators. Most poll workers are 60 plus and helpless when it comes to dealing with voters whose primary language is other than English. And we’re not just talking about Latinos either. My guess is that there are more Asian naturalized citizens (i.e., eligible voters) who need assistance.