The California Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) has every county election official in the state thinking about how this new law will apply and change longstanding processes.

While Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties will be the first to implement the law for the 2018 elections, the other 53 counties in the state are already thinking about how to adopt this new model that aims to provide greater flexibility and convenience for voters.

Voter’s Choice Act

If you’re in that group of counties trying to figure out how to implement the VCA for 2020, we at Avantpage want to make sure that you’re thinking about how these changes will impact Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities and how translation plays into that. Here are three questions we think you should be asking as an organization as you prepare for this change.

1. How will the Voter’s Choice Act impact my timelines for producing and printing materials that require translation?

The VCA requires that every registered voter in participating counties receive a ballot 28 days prior to election day. In the past, this requirement was six days or less prior to an election. That’s an almost three-week acceleration of the production, printing and distribution process for these ballots.

Now, even though translation is always on my mind, I realize it may not be for those of you who work at many of the registrar of voters, county clerk and county recorder offices around California. If I could recommend one thing, it would be to keep in mind that while the VCA accelerates the deadline for ballot distribution, many LSPs are still working with the same set of resources and therefore need the same or similar timeframes in which to complete translations. Elections turnaround times for translation are always tight, and this change could make them even more so.

To make this change easier for everyone involved, reach out to your LSP now to start talking about what kind of timelines make sense for everyone involved in the election process. More robust advance planning is required to make this process smooth for everyone involved. And if you don’t have a preferred LSP, give me a call to have Avantpage help get you ready for the VCA.


2. How will your county educate LEP communities and voters about the Voter’s Choice Act?

The VCA allows voters to choose how, when, and where to cast their ballot by mailing every voter a ballot, expanding in-person early voting and allowing voters to cast a ballot at any Vote Center within their county. It’s crucial to our democracy that every voter understand these new opportunities to vote, no matter what language he or she speaks.

As your county considers a VCA roll-out plan, think about how you will communicate with LEP individuals about these changes. Will you put posters in community centers? Have an outreach campaign that involves text messages, emails, and phone calls? It’s a good idea to set up a Language Accessibility Committee to address these questions and to work with local stakeholders and community groups.

No matter which of these tactics you choose, it will require some degree of translation into the languages most common in your area. So, be sure to involve your LSP in your planning process early. And if you can, try not to rely on GoogleTranslate add-ons to translate webpages or downloads!


3. Do we need more people or training to reach LEP communities?

As your county gets closer to election time, more people will be calling with questions and concerns — and not only in English. The VCA requires Vote Centers for every 50,000 registered voters, and that these centers be open for 10 days before the election. These Vote Centers will be a place where people can vote in person, drop off their ballot, get a replacement ballot, vote using an accessible voting machine, get help and voting materials in multiple languages, and register to vote or update their voter registration. In other words, a multitude of opportunities for conversations with voters.

At Avantpage, we can help you prepare by brainstorming options, including hiring interpreters and bilingual staff, and the implementation of a poll worker certification program that fulfills your requirements.

These are exciting times and, luckily, there is still time to prepare properly for the full rollout of the VCA in 2020. By thinking through these questions, you can better help your county prepare for these changes.

At Avantpage, our experienced team can help you navigate new voting requirements and more. To find out more about our services or to get a free quote, Email us at [email protected] or call us at 1-530-750-2040, extension 6.