On Election Day, one civil rights group will be ensuring voter's rights – with smartphones.
Volunteers with Latino Justice PRLDEF will be outside polling sites across New York City, equipped with a new smartphone app that allows for real-time reporting of lack of adequate translators, delays, voter intimidation, and other problems. The app, PollWatchUSA, was first tested during the September primaries.
Jazmin Chavez, communications coordinator of Latino Justice, said the organization has received many complaints about a lack of Spanish interpreters at poll sites over the years.
"There have been translators placed in neighborhoods that didn't need translators, and not enough in neighborhoods that needed them," said Chavez.
Chavez said the app will be particularly helpful in areas with high Latino populations. Latinos make up 75 percent of the population of Hunts Point. The 2008 presidential election brought problems for Latinos there, including not enough interpreters for voters who needed assistance, causing some bilingual voters to pitch in and help translate instructions.
The Voting Rights Act requires that areas with a certain number of minority-language speakers must be provided with interpreters and ballots in that language. The Board of Elections offers assistance in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Hindi, and Bengali. Chavez said that on several occasions, the Board of Elections has not fulfilled this requirement.
This crowdsourcing app allows anyone with a smartphone to report on problems at their site, and Latino Justice will then locate the troubled sites and alert the Board of Elections.