If you’re voting in Alaska for this year’s November elections, be prepared to see translations in Yup’ik and Gwich‘in.
Recently, a federal judge ordered the state to take stronger measures to provide voting materials to Alaska’s LEP (Limited English Proficiency) native voters.
In fact, the state is going far beyond just translating the ballots. They are making a strong effort to provide information to native voters in their language before and during the voting process.
Preparing for the Election
Prior to the state election, Alaska’s native voters can learn about the election through multiple channels.
Translated information regarding early voting, races and initiatives will be announced on the radio.
Website translations of election material will be available in Yup’ik dialects. This will include candidate statements, initiative summaries and pro and con statements on the initiatives.
Additionally, outreach workers may now be paid for up to 30 hours, as opposed to past regulations of only five hours.
Translation on Election Day
On November 4, poll workers in the three census areas affected by the case are to wear buttons with the phrase “Can I help?” translated into the native languages. Additionally, posters in English, Yup’ik and Gwich’in will state how voters can request help in casting their ballots.
What’s more, officials must provide trained bilingual staff to help voters at the polls.
A New Precedent for Translation
This decision came down after the Native American Rights Fund had sued the state on behalf of the Alaska villages.
The Voting Rights Act already requires that ballots be translated if a minority LEP group comprises 10,000 citizens or at least 5 percent of the voting population in a voting district. However, there is little direction given for which other voting materials must be translated.
Common sense dictates that all other voting materials must be translated so that all voters can make informed decisions. However, English-speakers in Alaska had previously been receiving a 100-page Official Election Pamphlet before every election, while Yup’ik-speaking voters received the date and time of the election, and a notice that language assistance would be available at the poll.
According to Reuters, Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, has since stated that the judge’s order will likely become a legal precedent for similar cases in other states. “She is setting the only enforceable legal standard on this issue. This helps Hispanics, Asians and especially native-language voters in the Southwest and the Dakotas.”
Why Choose Professional Translation
Elections matter, and something as important as the views of the candidate for whom you’re voting must be expressed accurately. Professional language service providers can ensure that speeches, pamphlets and websites are all translated as accurately as possible, allowing voters to make informed decisions come election day.