Asian Voters Can Be Provided With Ballots in Their Native Languages

Because of a recent surge in Asian immigrants, Nevada and ten other states have begun printing voting registration forms and ballots in languages that are not usually used on official documents. A Mandarin Chinese translation has been seen among other translations such as Vietnamese and Bengali. Other languages, like Hindi have also been seen in other states as voting is becoming more and more friendly to citizens with English as a second language.

Voting Rights Act Prompts Multi-Language Ballots

The languages that are now available on voting ballots and other official government forms are not only available because of the high Asian population in the eleven states where the new ballots are distributed. The Voting Rights Act under section 203 states that anywhere a population has 5%, or over 10,000 people, of voting age who speak another language besides English, pamphlets, signs, forms, and ballots must be translated into that native language. The ballot translation has been gratefully received by the Asian-American citizens who speak little to no English in these counties and cities. However, the translation has also run into a few setbacks. Acquiring professional translation has been an issue, and some words used by the translators have confused some Asian-American citizens.

One mistake that has since been corrected was the use of the word “registration” on some of the ballots. The word used on the Vietnamese ballots was also the word used in association to communist prison camps. Some citizens were upset by the translation, but it was brought to the local government official’s attention and the right word has been printed on new ballots. The Voting Rights Act has been enacted in Alaska, Michigan, California, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, and New York.

Will Translated Ballots Encourage More Asian-Americans to Vote?

Community organizers, voting rights groups, and state election departments hope that the new legal translation will make voting materials easier to understand and will encourage Asian-Americans to vote. In the past, the communities of Asian-Americans in the United States have been the minority population for voting, and the new ballots are in part an effort to embolden the community to make their voice heard. The translation services available in the past have not worked as well as the new translated ballots, though some election districts are still doubtful that even translated documents will help prompt Asian-Americans to vote.

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