The League of Women Voters has partnered with several organizations to ensure people from non-English speaking communities can exercise their right to vote by attaining better access to translated materials.
A new project aims to help Spokane, Washington, voters from all backgrounds be as engaged as possible in the upcoming election. League of Women Voters of the Spokane Area volunteer event coordinator Sherri Gangitano said the League is ramping up its activity in the countdown to November 3.
“This election is huge. It is critical to protecting our Democracy, and so the League is wanting to reach as many people as possible to ensure that their vote and their voice is heard,” Gangitano said.
As part of its efforts, the League of Women Voters has partnered with several organizations, including Spokane International Translation, Refugee Connections Spokane, and the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund to make the voting process more accessible. The project was created by the League’s Susan Hales. She wanted to translate voting instructions and sample ballots into six other languages: Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
“When immigrants and refugees study for the US citizenship exam, the materials do not prepare them to vote because the voting rules differ in every state,” said Hales. “Some English as a Second Language classes include citizenship information with basic information on how to connect their votes with what is important to them.”
Refugee Connections Spokane executive director Marijke Fakasiieiki added that this translation project will provide an invaluable tool to the community. “Refugees and immigrants who don’t speak English as a first language would be able to not only register to vote but have a sample ballot in their own language so they would be able to understand and be literate in the voting process,” Fakasiieiki said.
She stressed these are unofficial translations of ballots that can be used as a key to understand the official ballots from the Spokane County Elections Office. The office said the translations are an excellent resource, but voters must fill out and return their official English ballots in order for their votes to be counted.
“The League of Women Voters focuses on long term civic engagement, registering people to vote and engaging them as voters. They have connected with APIC, Latinos en Spokane and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to develop collaborative voter events, as well as voter registration kits for voters who are houseless,” said Hales, who has lived in Spokane for 30 years.