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LA County Receives 70,000 Requests for Non-English Ballots

Language in the News

The LA County Clerk Dean Logan announced that registered voters can still request to receive their voting materials for the November 3 election in one of 18 different languages by calling 800-815-2666, option 3.

As states prepare for the November 3 presidential election, LA County has seen requests in droves for voting ballots in languages other than English. According to Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, the office has received nearly 70,000 requests for non-English ballots, including mail-in ballots.

In 2006, federal legislation passed, extending the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. Any county with more than 10,000 residents whose native language is not English and who indicated on their U.S. Census form a lack of proficiency in English is required to provide election materials in the identified languages.

“In a jurisdiction with an electorate as richly diverse as Los Angeles County, it is essential that voters are aware they have options to receive election materials and their Vote by Mail ballot in their preferred language,” said Logan. “It’s critical for civic participation and the response to this mailer by close to 70,000 voters is a strong response to our voter outreach and education efforts.”

LA County currently provides fully translated voting materials in Armenian, Chinese, Cambodian/Khmer, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Vietnamese, Hindi, Japanese, Thai and Russian. Additionally, facsimile ballots are available upon request in Burmese, Telugu, Gujarti, Indonesian, Mongolian and Bengali.

Despite the wide access to voting ballots in languages other than English, however, voters may miss out on important translation services. During the pandemic, some areas of LA County have faced criticism for insufficient translation services even in physical locations, so officials may need to increase awareness in communities that have less access to English materials.

“Sending a Vote by Mail ballot to every voter is a critical step for voter access in 2020, but it means that millions of California voters will lose that moment when a poll worker asks them what language they would like their ballot in,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ lobby. “Mailers like L.A. County’s help ensure language stands as a barrier to the ballot for as few voters as possible. Every county in the state should use their remaining mailings, before Vote by Mail ballots go out, to share language access information.

Registered voters can still request to receive their election materials in one of 18 different languages by calling 800-815-2666, option 3.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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Translation chatbots and the US election

Localization Technology, Multimedia Translation

The Dallas News reported that TV ads in Spanish are targeting Latino voters in this year’s tight midterm races. However, results are “mixed.”

“TV ads on their own are not enough to attract Latino voters. Instead, grass-roots engagement early will be more effective to reach those who do not typically vote in midterm elections,” Jenny Manrique’s article stated.

With political campaigns suggesting that texting young voters can be an effective method for getting the vote out, translation chatbots may actually play a role in this year’s elections. Not because the chatbots themselves are sending messages… people don’t mind real political texts in some circumstances, but they may dislike getting political spam from bots. Potentially, however, having a translation bot aid a real human interaction is a little different. And for the first time in any election, Facebook Messenger is now providing the opportunity for people to have Spanish-English messages automatically translated.

It’s anticipated that 80% of all businesses will use chatbots by 2020. They are now available on almost every platform, and are more intuitive than ever. Nonprofits use them as well, including to interact with voters in Spanish on voter ID laws.

Even though some of the biggest chatbots, like Siri and Alexa, are relatively new, this technology actually dates back to the mid 20th century.

In 1950, Alan Touring theorized that an intelligent machine would be indistinguishable from a human in a text-only conversation. In 1966, MIT Professor, Joseph Weizenbaum invented Eliza, the world’s first chatterbot, which imitated the language of a therapist using only 200 lines of code.

Chatbots have come a long way since then. However, still in its infancy is the translation bot. For a translation bot to be 100% accurate, it must identify innuendos, syntax, grammar and inflection. For this reason, Facebook announced its first translation bot only this year, and it has rolled out only one language pair: English-Spanish, which it’s offering on Messenger to US users.  

Translation bots are not quite there yet. But they are ever improving. This infographic explains where translation bots started and where they are today.

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Rilind Elezaj is an experienced digital marketing specialist in the marketing and advertising industry. He integrates web development and other digital marketing solutions to create hybrid strategies.

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