According to U.S. Census Bureau data, there are nearly 26 million people in the U.S with limited English proficiency and more than 66 millions who speak a language other than English at home. Such individuals can face challenges when attempting to register to vote and cast a ballot. From translated materials to bilingual assistance at the polls, election officials across the country take a number of steps to help these voters overcome language barriers and participate meaningfully in the elections process. In 2016, such assistance was required by language provisions in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 263 jurisdictions and 3 states across the country. The EAC has supported language accessibility in elections since its founding in 2002. This has included creating glossaries and phrase books of common election terminology, providing Help America Vote Act funds to states to improve language accessibility, and offering the National Mail Voter Registration Form (NVRA form) in Spanish and eight Asian languages. More recently, in partnership with Democracy Fund Voice, the EAC has organized three summits focused on language access in elections each year since 2016.
Carrying this important work forward, the EAC is pleased to announce our newest resources that seek to strengthen language accessibility and help election officials serve voters with language needs.
- EAC Clearinghouse Brief on Language Accessibility. This brief aggregates existing resources on language accessibility. The brief aims to help election officials and other election stakeholders understand language assistance requirements under the VRA and how other jurisdictions have approached serving voters with language needs.
- Five New Translations of the National Mail Voter Registration Form. The NVRA form is now available in Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Russian. This builds on the nine previous translations of the form in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Khmer, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The new languages reflect the five most populous language communities in the U.S., among those with limited English proficiency and for whom the form was not previously translated.
The EAC will continue to augment its language accessibility resources as election officials prepare for the 2020 Presidential Elections and beyond.