All across the United States, the Spanish-speaking population is growing every day. Nearly twenty percent of Americans do not speak English as their native language, and much of that percentage is made up of people who mainly speak Spanish.
In some states, the Spanish-speaking population is particularly large, and accommodations are made every day to help them understand important messages, especially around voting time. One such state is New York, where ten different counties will provide a Spanish translator at the polling sites to make sure Spanish-speaking voters understand the ballot.
Accommodations Are Part of the Voting Rights Act
There is a large number of Puerto Ricans in the ten New York counties who will provide Spanish translation, so their vote will certainly matter. The recommendation for translation comes from the Attorney General in response to the Voting Rights Act.
The Act requires that, if the Spanish-speaking population in an area is high enough, all voting materials are available in Spanish and that a Spanish translator will be readily available in the event of any confusion. Even the absentee ballots will be available in Spanish for those residents who cannot physically attend the election.
Spanish Option Doesn’t End at the Polls
In addition to accommodating the Spanish-speaking citizens of New York at the polls, there are even more changes rolling out to help them make their choice in this election. On the Board of Election’s voting website, there is an option to select “Spanish” from a Google translate drop down menu at the top of the page.
Spanish-speaking website visitors will easily be able to read the page in their native language immediately. Some counties are even looking into Spanish translation services with AT&T for people who call into the Board of Elections with questions.
Some states have been slow to adopt the changes and requirements set forth by the Voting Rights Act, but New York is certainly not one of them. They’ve already made significant changes to their system to accommodate the Spanish-speaking community.
Leading Other States
Hopefully more states will be quick to follow, as these people are still United States citizens and their votes should count in the ballots. Hiring professional translators for English to Spanish translation to work at every voting site would be expensive, but election boards could either consider using volunteers for translation or even offer translation at a select few sites and make it clear which ones have the Spanish option.