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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 13:34 GMT
Asian voters in US 'got raw deal'
By Brajesh Upadhyay
BBC News, Washington

American Muslims
Asian Americans make up 3.6% of the US population
Many Asian American voters faced discrimination from voting officials during 2006 mid-term elections in the US, a civil rights group has alleged.

The report is based on a multilingual exit poll conducted among 4,700 Asian American voters in 25 US cities.

It documents alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act and Help America Vote Act and cases of "anti-Asian attitude".

According to a 2000 census, the US has more than 10 million Asian Americans, comprising 3.6% of its population.

'Rude behaviour'

The report by the Asian American Legal Defence and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 34-year-old civil rights organisation, comes as presidential primaries are in full swing in the United States.

They must learn English if they want to realise their American dream
Saghir Tahir,
New Hampshire legislator

The group alleges that poll workers were hostile towards Asian American voters, particularly those not fluent in English, during voting in 2006.

Many voters complained of "rude or hostile behaviour" and an "unhelpful attitude about election procedures", the report said.

It said 59 Asian American voters had complained.

In New York, 83% of voters who were asked to show identification were not legally required to do so, the report says.

It says English-speaking voters were not asked for ID.

The discrimination was "racially motivated and at the same time also demonstrated a bureaucratic approach", AALDEF lawyer Glenn D Magpantay told the BBC.

The survey found 40% of Pakistani-origin, 38% of Bangladeshi-origin and 17% of Indian origin-voters could not speak English well. One-third of Urdu speakers and the same number of Bengali speakers said they needed the assistance of interpreters in order to vote.

The report says some poll workers made disparaging remarks about such assistance.

"One poll worker in New York said she thought it was a waste of the taxpayers' money to pay for so many interpreters.

"Another poll worker commented that she did not think they should be required to provide multilingual material and voters should learn English," the report says.

It also said Chinese American voters had been given Spanish-language ballots in New York.

No response

Many Asian Americans' names were missing or misspelt in voter lists at polling stations, the report found.

Copies of the report and letters of complaint have been sent to the US Department of Justice for investigation, the AALDEF says.

The BBC contacted the voting section of the department, both by phone and e-mail. There was no immediate response to the allegations.

However, a Republican state representative of South Asian origin, Saghir "Saggy" Tahir, said he was not aware of such discrimination in his community.

"I am in my fourth term in the state legislature but I have never heard of any such complaint," says Mr Tahir, who was the first Asian American Muslim elected to this level in the Republican Party.

He says the easiest thing for people is to blame others for their inconvenience.

"I can only advise that they must learn English if they want to realise their American dream," says the New Hampshire legislator, who arrived in the US in 1972 from Lahore.

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