-By Jason Cherkis
November 8, 2012- On Election Day, Leo Kim, 34, drove a group of elderly Korean Americans to the polls in Annandale, Va., a Washington suburb. They quickly found themselves in a scene out of the Jim Crow era.
After presenting proper identification, authorities demanded that the seniors say their names and home addresses out loud in English — a tough proposition for some with limited English skills. The poll workers had made similar demands on the other voters.
The Korean American seniors "felt bullied," explained Glenn Magpantay, Democracy Program Director with The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He said multiple voters complained about similar treatment to his office. "They all had their IDs. They thought that would help."
When poll workers grew frustrated that the seniors didn't understand the instructions, they ordered all the Korean Americans waiting to vote to form a new line. "Korean people stand in a separate line," Leo recalled the poll worker calling out to everyone. Leo's group complied.
"Then they started taking the white voters," Magpantay said. "The Koreans had to wait."
Kim, who had volunteered to drive senior citizens to the poll, said the Korean Americans, just stood and watched. "I was uncomfortable," Kim said.