2024 is an election year here in the United States, and you know what that means: another year packed with political messaging and get-out-the-vote campaigns.

And while local politicians and presidential candidates alike will certainly be doing work to court voters and increase voter turnout, there’s one tool that’s often overlooked in discussions about how to improve voter turnout: language access.

 While the Voting Rights Act sets a sort of bare minimum for language access in elections, districts that go above and beyond these requirements are likely to see increased voter turnout among linguistic minorities in the country. As the country’s linguistic profile continues to diversify, language access in elections has become absolutely crucial for fostering inclusivity and enhancing voter participation, thus fortifying the democratic process.

 The Voting Rights Act plays a pivotal role in ensuring that folks all across the country have equitable access to our elections — under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions must “provide bilingual written voting materials and voting assistance regarding covered minority languages.” To get a bit more specific, the provision stats that jurisdictions must develop bilingual voting materials in a given language if the population of voting-age citizens who primarily speak that language meets the following criteria:

  • “Is more than 10,000, or
  • Is more than five percent of all voting age citizens, or
  • On an Indian reservation, exceeds five percent of all reservation residents; and
  • The illiteracy rate of the group is higher than the national illiteracy rate”

 While these criteria set a decent baseline for which languages to cater to, they don’t necessarily show the whole picture. As a result, jurisdictions looking to improve voter turnout must take action to make sure they’re providing adequate language access in this year’s elections — even if that means going the extra mile and going beyond the guidelines set in the Voting Rights Act.

 Here, we’ll take a look at how language access has been proven to increase voter turnout, and how you can leverage language access to improve voter turnout ahead of this year’s presidential election.

Language Access and Voter Turnout: How They’re Connected

When Congress amended the Voting Rights Act to include language access regulations back in 1975, voter registration among linguistic minority groups skyrocketed. In 1974, just under 35% of Hispanic citizens were registered to vote — by 2006, that number doubled, an increase that some scholars believe to be, at least partially, a result of the language access provisions added to the act in 1975.

Likewise, San Diego County in California saw a 40% increase in voter turnout among Vietnamese Americans after voluntarily offering Vietnamese language assistance during the 2004 election (Los Angeles County, too — there, Vietnamese language assistance was shown to boost voter turnout among Vietnamese voters by 60%).

While San Diego County wasn’t necessarily required to provide language assistance under the regulations outlined in the Voting Rights Act, it turned out that doing so had a significant impact on voter turnout. Additional research shows that the raw data used by the Voting Rights Act to calculate which languages to provide language access for doesn’t quite tell the full story.

In California, for example, just 4% of registered voters opted to use language assistance when voting. However, 11% of the state’s residents who are eligible to vote have limited English proficiency, meaning that not all of the state’s potential voters are being reached. To improve voter turnout, jurisdictions should go above and beyond the requirements of the Voting Rights Act — like San Diego Country did back in 2004 — to identify populations of eligible voters that they could be missing out on by following the minimum guidelines of the act.

Beyond bolstering voter turnout, language access initiatives foster stronger bonds of trust between elected officials and minority communities. By ensuring equitable access to voting resources, governments demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity, thereby fostering greater civic engagement and participation. This, in turn, contributes to a more representative and responsive political landscape — one of the core goals of the Voting Rights Act to begin with.


As we navigate another busy election year, it’s important to understand the critical role that language access plays in fortifying the foundations of our democracy. Language access allows linguistic minorities to fully participate in our elections.

If you’re looking to increase voter turnout in your jurisdiction, there are several resources and recommendations you can look to for improving language access:

  • The League of Women Voters and Asian Americans Advancing Justice offer several recommendations that can play a helpful role in identifying areas for improvement in your language access efforts.
  • The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has several preset resources to enable efficient translation of election materials, including a comprehensive glossary of election terminology in 20 different languages.
  • Your state’s Secretary of State office is also likely to have several tools and resources you can leverage in developing translations of election materials.
  • The EAC also offers grants to election offices, which can be used to fund language access research and development.
  • A trusted language service provider can work closely with you to develop high-quality translations of election materials and other forms of language assistance, such as on-site interpreting.

At Avantpage, we work with election offices all across the country to develop creative language access strategies in elections on every level. If you’re looking to increase voter turnout through language access, don’t hesitate to contact us today at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040.