Language Access Summit: Cost-Effective Practices for Providing Language Assistance

Jul 19, 2018

Election officials know better than most the importance of adopting strategies to spend their limited resources as effectively as possible. Whether it is finding cost-savings in big-ticket procurements, such as voting equipment or “shaving seconds” off of voter processing times at the polls, election officials are constantly finding ways to be more efficient and cost-effective in their work. 
Providing assistance to voters with language needs is no different. For example, election officials may leverage existing translation glossaries of election terminology, collaborate on translation needs with neighboring jurisdictions or their state elections offices, or partner with language community organizations to support recruitment of bilingual poll workers. 

Such approaches are particularly useful for jurisdictions that are newly covered or expect to be covered soon under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates the provision of language assistance in certain jurisdictions. Indeed, newly covered jurisdictions often must meet these requirements with no additional funds from their state or local budget authorities.

These and related topics will be discussed during the second panel at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) upcoming Language Access for Voters Summit, hosted in partnership with Arizona State University’s Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service and Democracy Fund Voice on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C. 

As in years past, the event will convene state and local election officials, advocates and stakeholders from language communities to discuss critical issues of language accessibility. Speakers will share experiences and observations on efforts to serve voters with language needs.

Following the day’s opening session and remarks from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, I will be sitting down with a panel of election officials and language assistance experts to discuss cost-effective practices for providing language assistance. 

This morning, I am honored to announce the four panelists who will join me on stage for the discussion:

  • Sonya L. Aston, Administrator of Elections, Harris County, Texas
  • Michelle Tassinari, Director/Legal Counsel, Elections Division, Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts
  • Kathy Placencia, Administrator of Elections, Board of Canvassers and Voter Registration, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Dr. James Tucker, Pro Bono Voting Counsel, Native American Rights Fund

Panelists will share their experiences and offer practical tools and cost-effective strategies for providing language assistance. This will include discussion of the particular challenges faced by smaller and medium-sized jurisdictions that have limited budgets, as well as jurisdictions that are covered for multiple languages. 

The Language Access Summit is free and open to the public and to media. We hope you will join us for this important event. RSVPs are required and space is limited.

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