An Asian-American civil rights group said it is sending attorneys and volunteers to monitor polling places in Boston on Tuesday, following reports that Chinese-speaking voters were pressured to vote absentee for candidates they didn’t support.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, based in New York, made the announcement after Boston election officials last week nullified six absentee ballots submitted by elderly Chinese-speaking voters who said they were pressured by campaign operatives who knocked on their doors and pushed them to vote absentee for certain candidates.
City officials did not say which operatives exerted the pressure, but the Chinese Progressive Association and its political arm — which has endorsed District 2 City Council candidate Ed Flynn — blamed the reported coercion on veteran Chinatown operatives working for Flynn’s rival, Mike Kelley.
Kelley’s campaign vigorously denied the accusation.
Jerry Vattamala, the director of the group’s democracy program, said the fund typically sends poll watchers to Boston for major elections because of the city’s history of voting problems.
Those problems include reports that poll workers coerced Chinese-speaking voters to cast ballots for certain candidates when they showed up at polling stations in 2003.
Two years later, in 2005, the fund supported a federal voting rights lawsuit against Boston, which resulted in a settlement requiring that ballots be translated into Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
But after monitoring polling places in 2006, the group registered complaints with the secretary of state and Boston election officials charging that candidates’ names were not translated into Asian languages on ballots.
This year, Vattamala said the fund will have about 30 volunteers in the state, stationed at two polling places in Chinatown and two in Dorchester as well as polling locations in Quincy, Lowell, and other communities, he said.
Vattamala said the volunteers will make sure the polling places have Asian-language materials and interpreters available and will also conduct exit polling of Asian-American voters.
The fund group said it will also monitor polling places in New York City, New Jersey, and Virginia on Election Day.Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.