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An U.S. Election Assistance Commission blog written by former Commissioner Matthew Masterson

EAC remains committed to providing language access resources

Jun 16, 2017

Last week EAC held our second Language Access for Voters Summit.  The first summit, held last year, focused on building relationships and partnerships between election officials, advocates and voters to improve language services for voters.  This year’s summit focused on tangible steps for election officials and advocates to improve language resources for voters including a summit talk by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver about the work she is doing in her state to provide full access to the Native American community.  Specifically, the summit focused on identifying steps and strategies that jurisdictions that have new language requirements can use to efficiently and cost effectively fulfill their obligations under Sec. 203 of the voting rights act. Some of these recommendations included:

  • Utilize already existing resources like EAC Glossaries of Election Terminology, resources already provided by other counties, resources created by advocacy groups & language communities.
  • Anticipate coverage and begin work now.  Fairfax County, Virginia talked about already providing election materials in Korean in anticipation of one day being required to do so under Sec. 203.  This has allowed them to work with the Korean community to refine the resources they are providing such that if/when coverage is required they will already be in compliance.
  • Look for opportunities to work with other organizations. In 2016 King County, Washington began a partnership with the Seattle Foundation to award funding to local organizations to engage with communities that speak a language other than English.
  • Work with young people to help provide language assistance. Montgomery County, Maryland has a program called Future Vote which uses student election aides to provide a variety of election assistance, including assistance in languages other than English. In 2016 more than 1,000 students provided this assistance.

Moving forward the EAC remains committed to providing best practices and resources related to language access as part of our clearinghouse function.  This will include:

  • Working with already covered jurisdictions to develop a checklist for election officials to use to provide the required levels of language assistance.
  • Updating our glossaries of election terms to include new terms and additional languages.
  • Working to make election materials produced in multiple language more usable for voters.  This includes looking at additional research on the improving the usability of multi-lingual ballots and election forms.
  • Making additional translation services available to election officials in order to help save them time and money as they work to provide language assistance to their voters.

Thank you to all the participants and attendees (both in-person and virtually) for making the second language summit a huge success. Look for more information and resources from EAC on language access in the near future as a result of the great work done at the summit.

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