Colorado is making it easier to vote for residents with limited English proficiency

The state of Colorado recently announced that it is working with CyraCom, a Tucson-based language service provider, to launch a new service to improve language access for individuals with limited English proficiency who are voting in the upcoming election.

The state’s Language Assistance Hotline, launched Oct. 17, allows speakers of Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese to call a hotline that will provide them with live interpretations of their ballot. The state developed the hotline after adopting House Bill 21-1011 (HB 21-1011), which mandates the expansion of multilingual voting services within the state.

“Voting should be accessible to every Colorado voter,” said Colorado Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, whose office is taking the lead on the initiative. “The new Language Assistance Hotline does exactly that by assisting Colorado citizens who may only speak or read limited English with live ballot interpretation.”

According to HB 21-1011, the state of Colorado is home to a little more than 100,000 individuals who are eligible to vote and also have limited English proficiency — about 80% of that population lives in counties that do not (or did not, prior to the bill’s adoption) offer voters  access to voting materials in languages other than English. Moreover, the bill also notes that the language used in voting ballots can be difficult to understand even for people with slightly more advanced English proficiency.

The bill proposed the development of the Language Assistance Hotline, which provides ballot interpretations in any language spoken by more than 2,000 eligible voters that do not speak English proficiently. The hotline will be available for voters to call Monday through Friday until Election Day, Nov. 8. Interpreters working on the line will only interpret the content in the ballot and provide information on how to fill out the ballot — to remain nonpartisan, the interpreters will not provide additional information that could sway the voters’ choices.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or unaffiliated,” Griswold told the local news agency, KRDO. “Regardless of your zip code, the color of your skin, or your primary language, as long as you’re eligible and a U.S. citizen, you have to have the access to cast a ballot.”

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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