Today’s news:

Asian legal group ready to help immigrant voters

A Flushing−based Asian−American legal advocacy group said last week it will be out in force in Queens and elsewhere to ensure immigrant voters are not confused or turned away from polling sites.

The Asian American Legal Defense Fund said it will monitor polling sites in Queens, Manhattan and 11 other states around the country to help new voters overcome unnecessary roadblocks they say are often present for Asian−American immigrants.

“In the 2006 midterm elections, Asian−Americans had to overcome numerous obstacles to exercise their right to vote. AALDEF volunteers identified mistranslated ballots, interpreter shortages that led to Asian−American voters being turned away and poll workers who made hostile and racist remarks about Asian−American voters,” said Glenn Magpantay, an AALDEF staff attorney. “AALDEF will guard against the disenfranchisement of new citizens and limited English−proficient voters.”

Additionally, AALDEF said it plans to conduct exit polls on more than 15,000 Asian−American voters, a substantial portion of which will be done in Queens communities like Flushing and Bayside, which have some of the city’s largest Asian−American communities.

AALDEF said polls it has conducted in elections since 1998 have indicated steadily increasing numbers of new immigrant voters. The results of a survey conducted by another Flushing−based group, Korean−American advocacy group YKASEC, suggest immigrant voters remain something of a wild card in the coming election.

YKASEC surveyed 1,000 new immigrant voters in the city, including Queens, and found that 32 percent remain undecided in the presidential election. Of those surveyed, the economy, jobs and health care are the top issues of concern.

“These survey results reflect what we have been observing in our communities, so it is no surprise that economic ‘pocketbook’ issues are the major issues for immigrants,” said Steven Choi, YKASEC’s program director. “When a nation faces the kind of recession that we are facing, the immigrant community is among the most vulnerable.

“While immigrants have always valued the education of their kids, the current state of the economy has had a huge impact on immigrant communities,” he said. “Many have been forced to end their health care, while others continue to live without it.”

Though AALDEF said multilingual attorneys will be present at polling sites across Queens, it encouraged anyone who experiences problems on Election Day to contact its free hotline at 1−800−966−5946 or by e−mail at votingcomplaints@aaldef.org.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, ext 138.

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