As an elections professional, you have a wide variety of regulations you need to keep in mind as you look towards translating your documents for the next election. Regardless of your goals surrounding language access and voter turnout, understanding what documents are vital for election translation can help to ensure those goals are met. While each county has different threshold languages and may require different language services in addition to translation, having these documents standardized can promote the success of your language goals.

Vital Election Translation Documents

Election translation is individualized by county, and dependent on what your threshold languages are. The Voting Rights Act states that, for all of your threshold languages, you need to translate the following documents:

  • Registration or voting notices
  • Forms
  • Voting instructions
  • Ballots
  • Other materials or information relating to the electoral process

The direct language from the Voting Rights Act says, “The requirements of the law are straightforward: all election information that is available in English must also be available in the minority language so that all citizens will have an effective opportunity to register, learn the details of the elections, and cast a free and effective ballot.”

Election Translation and threshold languages

With this in mind, determining your threshold languages is your highly important next step. The Secretary of State’s office will provide you with a list, but if you’re interested in how these are decided, these are the qualifying factors that make a language a threshold language:

  • Have more than 10,000 people OR
  • Constitute more than 5% of all citizens OR
  • Used on an Indian reservation by more than 5% of all reservation residents AND
  • Have a higher illiteracy rate than the national illiteracy rate

While translating for your threshold languages is legally mandated, many counties choose to expand the number of languages they translate their documents into even further. If there’s a growing language community in your area, it may be worth translating your documents into that language to promote access and increase voter turnout. Additionally, talking to the language communities in your district can help you to understand the efficacy of your translations, and whether they’re providing access in the way you would like them to.

If you’re starting a new election translation project, or want to ensure that you’re prepared before the next election, we can help. From determining your threshold languages to which documents you need to translate, we’ve managed a wide variety of election translation projects for over 20 years. Call us at 530-750-2040 or request a free quote today, and start a partnership with a Language Service Provider you can trust.

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