On October 12, the United States Bureau of Census officially reported that Bergen County, NJ must provide services in Korean, pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. This makes Bergen County the fourth county in the United States that must provide Korean services at polling sites. This was made law on October 13, 2011, effective immediately.
The decision was made as the results of the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey demonstrated that Korean population in Bergen County has reached the required amount for language assistance. Counties can be designated to service a certain population if: the voting members of the minority group comprise at least 5% or 10,000 people of the total voters; high difficulty with English; and have literacy levels below the national standard (about 1%).
Korean American Voters’ Council (KAVC) worked as the secretariat of the 2010 Korean American Census Task Force and dedicated full effort to make Bergen County, NJ a selected area. In 2006, KAVC translated the absentee ballot form in Korean. In 2008, KAVC translated NJ Voter Registration Form to Korean. In 2010, KAVC translated the NJ Mail-by-Vote Registration form. Despite the accomplishments, KAVC recognized the need to provide Korean language services at poll sites. Through the Census Bureau’s decision, Korean Americans in Bergen County are entitled to receive Korean support at their polling sites, voting ballots in Korean, and voter’s guides in Korean.
During the 2010 Census, KAVC anticipated Massachusetts, Virginia, and Hawaii to be selected for Korean language support, but that did not come to pass. However, the selection of Bergen County is a great success for the Korean American community.
KAVC worked fervently to make New Jersey’s Voter Registration Form and the Mail-by-Vote form in Korean. KAVC plans to help create more voter materials in Korean, to make sure that Koreans are entitled for fair representation and support at polling sites.