In my view
Aaron Mukerjee ’16, J.D. ’21
Growing up as an Indian American in a small town in southeast Michigan, I understood what it was like to be an outsider. As recently as 2020, my hometown made international headlines for all the wrong reasons when two parents clashed during a school meeting focused on racism.
At the same time, I grew up believing that America was the greatest country in the world — a place where my family could pursue their dreams, where my mother could build her own small business from the ground up, and where I could go to good public schools and make it to a place like Harvard.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that the way to reconcile these two ideas — the feeling that America was a beacon of hope for my family, but that I was still treated as an outsider in my own country — is by expanding our notion of what it means to be American. That starts by building a more inclusive democracy and critical to that mission is protecting everyone’s right to vote.
That’s why I joined the Harvard Law School Voting Rights Litigation and Advocacy Clinic, where I worked with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) to fight for voting rights for Asian Americans who have long been ignored and disenfranchised, but whose voices can make an enormous impact on our democracy.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) helps protect Asian American voters in several significant ways. Section 203 of the VRA requires elections officials in some places to translate all voting materials into certain minority languages if there are a sufficient number of citizens who speak the same language and have low English proficiency.
Section 208 of the VRA fills the gap for voters outside these areas by ensuring that those who cannot read or write in English can receive assistance from a person of their choice when casting a ballot. This is particularly important for Asian American voters, who constitute a linguistically diverse and geographically dispersed community, meaning that relatively few parts of the country are actually required to translate voting materials into Asian languages under Section 203.
During my time at AALDEF, through poll monitoring, community engagement, and litigation, I helped ensure that these protections were enforced. But the fight is far from over.