How Can I Help My Non-English Speaking Friends and Family to Vote?

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When the Congress amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to ensure access to ballots for non-English speakers, and to protect the voting rights of racial minorities, the electoral process has been more inclusive and hundreds of thousands of voters have been able to do so. 

Despite speaking, reading, or writing in English is not required in order to vote, foreign language speaking voters continue to face hurdles and native speakers can offer a helping hand when required. According to the organization Voto Latino, many counties and jurisdictions provide bi-lingual and multilingual voting materials, expanding the opportunities and making the action easier to U.S citizens. As reported by Pew Research Center, 31 states offer information on their websites in languages other than English, 29 of those states offer it in Spanish, and the District of Columbia and Kentucky built their websites with the possibility of translating the information into multiple languages. 

This language assistance applies to Asian American, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native communities, but every five years the Census Bureau updates the list of jurisdictions to include more regions and languages, based on an American Community Survey data that details all voting-age citizens who speak English. 

Another alternative for voters is the possibility of bringing a family member, a neighbor or any trusted person of your community into the voting booth to help you interpret the ballot. The only requirement is that the individual can’t be an employer or union representative. 

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Once the voter has decided who’s going to be that person, the following step is to assist to the voting place and inform the election officials that the companion is there to help with the process due to limited English proficiency. Voters may be required to complete and sign a form that states that have difficulty speaking, reading, writing or understanding English and the person helping may also be required to sign a form swearing that he or she did not tell you who you should vote for or will tell others about your decision. 

Always remember that by Federal law, voter intimidation is a violation and harassment targeting non-English speakers and voters of color is a crime. If you will be helping someone during the 2020 election, explain beforehand their rights and to not answer questions about citizenship, criminal record, or if it is qualified to vote. To report intimidation to the Election Protection Hotline you or the voter can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español). You can also contact the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline: 800-253-3931; TTY line 877-267-8971.