The Election Assistance Commission recently reported that according to U.S Census Bureau data, approximately 26 million people in the United States have limited English proficiency and more than 66 million speak a language other than English. A growing statistic that we, as Election Professionals, must come to acknowledge. As a matter of fact, a federal judge on May 10th, 2019 acknowledged the plethora of multilingual voters and ordered 32 Floridian counties to provide bilingual ballots beginning with the 2020 Presidential primaries.
Having previously served as Director of Elections in a large, diverse jurisdiction, I understand the ever-changing challenges we face in the world of elections and voter registration. I learned first-hand in my own county and by touring like-sized, diverse jurisdictions across the country, not all voters are the same. However, we are called as protectors and administers of democracy to create an inclusive, fair election process for every voter, regardless of need.
As America becomes more diverse, our election infrastructure must amend to accommodate everyone. Regardless of politics, our duty is to service each registered voter the same. This includes providing solutions for those who require language assistance and translation.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was a huge first step towards accessibility in elections. In 2019, what measures are we taking to ensure inclusive, universal elections? What resources do we apply to protect the registration and voting experience of non-English speaking, hard of hearing, or voters with limited English proficiency? Are we doing enough? Probably not.
Here’s the good news. Your next election is just around the corner! From recruiting multilingual poll workers, providing translation materials such as glossaries and keywords for poll workers and officials, increasing voter assistance qualifications, engaging local language communities and advocacy groups, attending and offering resources during naturalization ceremonies, introducing multilingual signs and registration information, and embracing new Election Day technologies such as Multilingual Virtual Pollworker, we can still make a difference and reaffirm that every vote matters.
Inclusion Solutions offers a variety of accessibility products including the universal, inclusive Franklin Voting Booth and ADA-compliant BallotCall Alert System. For more information about accommodating multilingual voters with the Multilingual Virtual Pollworker, contact James Young, former Director of Elections of Louisville, KY, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502.249.3916.