Impacts of COVID-19 on voters

As Americans settle into the new reality of life under shelter-in-place directives, questions abound about how and when life will return to normal. When will I next sit down at a favorite restaurant? When will I board a plane again? Will my kids be returning to the classroom in 2020? Not least of these questions – how will I vote when November rolls around?

This is a question very much on our minds at Avantpage. With our mission of empowering immigrant populations through language access, we worry about the impact of a changed election process on limited English speaking populations. With elections partners in Washington, California, New York, and Florida, we see different barriers affecting teams around the country. In our home state of California, we are already witnessing an increase in vote by mail (VBM), as a number of counties implemented the Voters Choice Act in 2016 and 2018. The shift in those counties from polling stations to Vote Centers aimed to make voting more convenient and flexible, expanding early voting and ensuring that every eligible voter received a mail-in ballot. This makes California more prepared than some for a shift to remote voting, but we are far from ready to implement this model across the entire state.

Changes to election translation needs

From the translation standpoint, Avantpage is in conversation with county officials, and looks forward to more information on the following areas.

Voter outreach
How do states and counties plan to adequately inform LEP citizens of changes to voting? This could be in written form, but are there also plans to provide in-language TV ads, public service announcements, and radio segments? Avantpage is seeing increased demand for these alternative language services and is well positioned to help in a variety of media.

File types
Will a broader range of ballot types require translation, to accommodate remote voting? This is a great thing to add to your planning process, as well as the time required to reformat after translation and to potentially print and mail a higher number of ballots and voter guides than normal.

Will budgets be adjusted to allow for increased mailing of foreign language ballots? As always, working with your translation provider to streamline processes and identify areas for cost savings is key. After translation, Avantpage provides customized breakdowns of spend that allow counties to bill candidates as needed. Our advanced reporting could be useful for emergency funding or other financial purposes in light of these exceptional circumstances.

We know that elections teams are inundated with work. An election period is busy enough, without the uncertainty and reorganization required during this pandemic. We can not stress enough the importance of planning and keeping your providers in the loop. Avantpage encourages team meetings as early as possible and looks forward to contributing ideas and best practices at this time.

If you’re looking for help creating a translation plan for the upcoming election, please fill out our Contact Us Form, or email [email protected]