Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Translators Will Be There on Tuesday

As you may have heard, the American presidential election will take place on Tuesday.

And the translators will be there when needed, right in the polling booths.
"'Federal law allows a voter to have a translator of choice present– like a friend or a family member – even inside the voting booth. The voter absolutely has every right to bring a translator of their choice who can assist them with their ballot. The translator will have to sign an oath [at the polling location] saying he [or she] is not going to improperly influence their vote,' explained Maureen Haver, state director, Common Cause [in Houston]. 'While polling stations may provide translators,' Haver said, 'having a trusted person to provide assistance can be especially useful for voters who may be only partially literate in their own language. Time and time again, we continue to hear that poll workers are saying that only they can provide assistance to these voters. That is incorrect information,' Haver emphasized.

"Haver said, 'The assistance in the booth not only applies to the Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese-speaking communities of Houston, but also here in Alief, which is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the entire city, we have Indonesian speakers, we have Malaysian speakers, we have Punjabi. We have all these other languages.' Ballots in Harris County, which includes Houston, are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and now Chinese as well. The Voting Rights Act has several criteria that mandate multi-lingual ballots based on Census data. Harris County was ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to print Vietnamese ballots based on the 2000 Census which documented at least 10,000 Vietnamese residents old enough to vote but who were not English proficient. From the 2010 Census, the Harris County Clerk’s office made the same numerical determination about the Chinese community.
Note that there are no qualifications required for "the translator of choice." It's the voter who decides. One hopes that the people who translate the ballot papers are Expert Translators, for a mistranslation in the ballot papers could have widespread consequences. However, the helpers in the voting stations and the translators in the booths will practically all be Natural or Native Translators.

Khalil Abdullah. Right to translator of choice invigorates Houston voters. New America Media, 1 November 2012. The report is here.

Bilingual presidential voting paper in English and Spanish. Source:


  1. Bilingual voting papers allow non-American speakers to choose the American President. Crazy! But English still is an official language in the U.S.A, right?

  2. Thank you for the comment.

    Strange though it may seem to you, the USA doesn’t have an official language. English is the de facto national language and the one most widely spoken, but attempts to have it declared ‘official’ have so far come to nothing. See the Wikipedia article on Languages of the United States at

    Some people say that by 2050, Spanish will have caught up with English. Perhaps Americans will also elect a Spanish-speaking bilingual President.

  3. If you’re in the business of selling products or services internationally you need the services of a professional translation agency for English to Vietnamese translation