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Voter Confusion

In a country like the United States, the number of English As a Second Language speakers (or LEP as they are referred to there) is a major issue in the voting process. When the margins are as close as they are predicted to be in next week’s US presidential election, every vote counts. Ensuring that speakers of languages other than English vote correctly is critical.

For some people, the act of voting is challenging enough, let alone in a second language. I was 31 years old the first time I ever voted (due to the fact I had never lived in a country where I was eligible to vote at election time), so I asked for help on how to fill in the form – luckily the explanation was in my native tongue, not a luxury for everyone.

In the past, many ethnic voters have reported poor treatment by poll workers, being given incorrect information on how to vote, or being given no help at all. This could be a result of poor training of poll workers, but it also demonstrates the need for more bilingual assistance on vote day(s). In areas supporting large populations of second-language voters, like Spanish speakers in LA or New York, translators are readily available. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all language groups.

Politicians themselves know the benefit of assisting all voters. The Obama Voter Protection Program seeks bilingual volunteers who understand the legal system for poll watching. And why wouldn’t he? He is relying on the minority vote.

While initiatives like those above are a great start, turning around lower than average minority voter rests in two 2 things: making minority group leaders accountable for their community’s participation in the vote, and the long term up-skilling of English skills in minority groups.

Whoever wins on Nov 5th has 4 years to get these voters ready for their incumbent election!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 2:00 am and is filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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