Elections will be bilingual
Sonoma County has met the federal criteria required to become a bilingual county for purposes of elections. For future elections, all ballots, voter information guides and voter communications will be required to be in both English and Spanish.
“We are excited and prepared to meet the requirements of this designation,” said Deva Marie Proto, Sonoma County Registrar of Voters. “We already provide many services in multiple languages, and we are working to ensure we are compliant with this new mandate.”
The bilingual designation is based on census data and is based on the language provisions of the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). These determinations, updated every five years, direct certain states and political subdivisions to provide voting materials and other assistance during elections for language minority groups with limited English proficiency and who have been historically excluded from the political process.
The act mandates that this assistance be provided to voters if more than 5% of voting-age citizens are members of a single-language minority group and do not ‘‘speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process,’’ and if the rate of those citizens who have not completed the fifth grade is higher than the national rate of voting-age citizens who have not completed the fifth grade.
Sonoma County voters will see bilingual ballots in the scheduled April 12 Windsor Town Council Special Election, as well as countywide for the June 7 Gubernatorial Primary Election. The new mandate will result in an increase in the cost of elections due to required translations, as well as an increase in printing and postage. Costs will vary by election and will be shared by the jurisdictions on the ballot. Preliminary estimates are that costs will rise by approximately 50 cents to $1 per voter.
Sonoma County is currently required to provide translated facsimiles or copies of ballots in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Khmer. The County also provides bilingual poll workers or remote language assistance at all in-person voting locations.
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