Wash. Co. Election Commission Seeks to Break Down Language Barriers

News

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA)– Counties across Arkansas are sending out notices reminding Arkansans to update their voter information, but one group claims it’s being left out.

These notices are “to see if the voter is still living in Washington County, and still interested in being a registered voter,” said Jennifer Price, the Washington County Election Coordinator.

But most of these notices only come in English, which immigrant advocate and director of Arkansas United, Mireya Reith, said poses a threat to the immigrant community.

She said, “Our 2020 elections are expected to be historic for this country and we are gravely concerned that we have a lot of new Asian and Hispanic voters that could be unintentionally left out of the process if they’re not well informed.”

Lack of response to these cards can lead to termination of your voter registration.

So, Reith is pushing for county clerk offices to reach out to non-English speakers in more ways than one to avoid confusion on election day.

“Even though we are an English-only state doesn’t mean that we can’t have collaborations with groups like ours or other non-profits or private individuals who want to be able to offer language translations,” Reith said. 

The language barrier doesn’t stop at these notices, Reith said immigrants can easily get confused while actively voting.

The Washington County Election Commission is aware that some immigrant voters might be intimidated by all English signage when coming to the polls, so it translated voting steps to make the process easier.

Price said, “When you come in to vote, we’re going to ask you a lot of questions. We’re going to ask your name, and your address and your date of birth, and then have you go through this whole voting process. If you’re not familiar with it, and can be rather intimidating especially if English is your second language.”

In 2014, the Washington County Election Commission had one poll translator, last year it had six, and Price expects that number to grow.

“We’ve done a couple YouTube videos on how to vote and we’ve done those in both Spanish and Marshallese,” she said.”

If you have questions on your voter status, you can check here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.