Millions of Americans won’t vote in English on Election Day

Tuesday, November 8 is Election Day in the United States.

This year, American voters will participate in what is called the midterm elections. The elections are so called because they take place nearly two years – or roughly in the middle – of the US president’s term.

Members of the United States House of Representatives are elected every two years. Thus, at mid-term, the 435 seats in the House are decided. In addition, every two years, one-third of the members of the United States Senate are elected or vacate their seats at the end of their term.

American voters will also choose governors, state legislators and local officials. Election results will decide which party controls Congress, as well as state offices and legislatures.

To vote in federal and state elections, a person must be a US citizen and at least 18 years old. The person must also respond to the condition residence terms. In all states except North Dakota, people must also register to become voters.

This year, more than 80 million Americans will be able to vote in a language other than English. Indeed, US federal law guarantees that certain groups of people may receive language assistance during the voting process.

Gabe Osterhout is a research fellow at the Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University. He said: “The idea was to take groups that were historically excluded from the electoral process, and the mission was to make it more accessible for some of these groups.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to protect the voting rights of African Americans primarily in the South. The law was expanded in 1975 to include certain linguistic minorities. These included Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Latinos, and Asian Americans.

Jim Tucker is an attorney with the Voting Rights Project of the nonprofit Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He noted that for citizens with limited knowledge of English, voting information can be “a barrier to the ability to to participate.”

Samples of English and Spanish ballots and voter information pamphlets for the California Democratic presidential primary are seen at a polling place in Del Mar, Calif., March 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Bing guan)

How do officials decide on languages?

Every five years, the US Census Bureau chooses which language minority groups will receive help with information in their native language.

This decision is based on the fact that more than 5% of eligible voters in an area speak limited English, or if there are more than 10,000 eligible voters in an area with limited English ability. Local election officials are then required to provide voting materials, including ballots, in that second language.

In December 2021, the US Census identified 331 areas that meet the requirements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Most of the areas covered, called jurisdictions, are in three states, California, Florida and Texas. These states must provide Spanish-language voting materials in every statewide election.

Registration and voting data from November 1996 and 2000 revealed that adding a second language has “positive effects on the voting rate of the linguistic minorities covered.

The research was conducted by Professors Michael Jones-Correa and Israel Waimel-Manor. It found that Latino voter turnout was 11% higher in areas covered by language requirements than in areas that did not provide Spanish materials and assistance. The professors also found that voter registration among Latinos was 15% higher in areas that provided language assistance than in those that did not.

Tucker observed a large increase in participation in the four groups covered by the language requirements. These include American Indians, Alaska Natives, Latino or Spanish-speaking voters, and Asian Americans who have spoken Asian languages ​​since 1975.

The Voting Rights Act was supposed to end in 1970, but it was extended five times. The last extension, for 25 years, took place in 2006.

I am Jill Robbins.

Dora Mekouar reported this story for VOA News. Hai Do adapted the story for Learn English.

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words in this story

residencenot. the state or fact of inhabiting a place

accessibleadj.. easy to appreciate or understand

to participatev. participate in an activity

eligible – adj. able to do or receive something

positiveadj.. good or useful