Language barriers create confusion at the polls

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Georgia Sign

In the 2018 election in Georgia, there were many different voter experiences that we experienced as a part of my organization. One issue that I saw was language access at the ballot. And so we met an elderly Korean man who approached our organization asking for help with interpretation at the polls because he is an American citizen, but doesn't speak English fluently, and he and his wife are both identified as limited English proficient. And so they needed someone who spoke Korean to help them vote in an informed ballot. And so they reached out to us and a staff member from our organization went to the polls with them and actually faced a lot of confusion on the polls.

 

It actually delayed their right to vote by probably 15 or 20 minutes, maybe longer while the poll worker called the poll manager who then called other supervisors to clarify whether or not our staff member could even help him vote. And so all of this burden really raised the question for us of who's actually allowed to interpret for LEP voters, limited English proficient voters at the polls. And what we found out was there was actually a really old law on the books in Georgia that said that in state and local elections, your interpreter has to be someone who's related to you, like directly related to you or a registered voter in your same precinct, which is pretty narrow. And it's very, very narrow compared to the federal voting rights act, which says that anyone can help you as an interpreter in federal elections except for a representative of your employer or your union.

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