As the 2020 election draws near, it’s important to remember how much of a role language and language services play in an election cycle. While democratic elections are based on the free ability to vote – many Limited English Proficient (LEP) immigrants and citizens may struggle to effectively partake in the democratic process. Language barriers can create a lack of understanding as to how the voting process works, and insufficient translation of ballots and other election materials can prevent LEP voters from effectively understanding who or what they are voting for.

Democracy, and the ability to effectively partake in the democratic process, is not to be taken for granted. We asked our team members what democracy means to them, in an effort to illuminate the experiences of varying people with different languages and cultures, who live in different countries. We hope that, in this exercise, we may all come to value the democracy the United States provides for the true privilege it is.

Fernanda’s Participation in the Democratic Process

Fernanda Aguilera, one of our Project Coordinators, lives in Mexico where voting is “not as technologically advanced as in other countries.” For every election she’s participated in, she’s had to follow a specific process that she notes would make it easy to manipulate the vote count. “We still use pen and paper, deposit our ballot in an urn, and the vote-counting is done manually by the people in charge of each voting place, city, etc.” Beyond the hand-counted votes, it’s important to note that the Mexican government isn’t an active hand in this aspect of the democratic process. “Government employees are not the ones in charge of the logistics of the voting place, but they recruit and train citizens to volunteer.”

Fernanda goes on to describe her feelings about voting in a system like this, where most politicians and political institutions are seen as corrupt. “The general feeling in Mexico is of choosing ‘the better of the worst’. We do not trust our politicians due to corruption. Sometimes I feel as if my vote doesn’t matter, but I always keep informed anyway about the candidates and proposals.”

While Fernanda feels discouraged about whether her vote counts in this system, she notes that she has never experienced issues when going to vote, including language access issues. She’s been able to vote at her polling place every time she’s gone to participate in an election.

Though she experiences her fair share of doubt as to whether her vote matters, she feels strongly about participating in elections and being informed about all possible candidates and voting matters. “Voting is a right we all have, but it is also our responsibility. And part of that responsibility is being informed about the parties, candidates, and how the system works.” She urges others to get involved beyond voting in the election. “Try to get an insight into the system, so you can know how to create a real change.”

Ensuring that every eligible voter gets to participate in the democratic process begins with ensuring all eligible voters can understand how to vote, and who they are voting for. If you’d like to prepare your election materials for the upcoming 2020 election, we can help. Call us at 530-750-2040, or request a free quote today.

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