Language and Translation News
The 2010 census saw the demand to print ballot papers in other languages become a federal law across many states in America.
The law, contained in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, states that not just ballot papers, but all voting materials must be translated when 5 percent of a local population speak the same native language and have limited knowledge of English.
The law encompasses Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington, showing a vast, albeit dispersed, population of foreign language speakers that could make significant difference to the outcome of elections.
Thus far new language translations have included Mandarin, Vietnamese and Hindi. However, problems arose with the translation of the voting form when the result was not contextually correct. Words used out of context included ‘Registration,’ in Vietnamese, suggesting that the translation was not carried out by a trained professional.
However, the new federal law has made life difficult for election departments to hire professional elections translation staff during recession, especially when there is a question over whether the translated election materials will actually increase the number of voters.
In spite of this, the number of registered voters increased in the American Vietnamese population, which could mark a drive towards better translation services as an election tactic in the voting process.
Greater participation in elections will give a better understanding of the voting process of different communities in America. It has been recorded that only 50 percent of Chinese Americans would consider their level of English to be above satisfactory, and with a 6 percent population increase of Asian Americans across of America in 2011, it has never been more important to improve foreign language communication in the election process.
Certain areas with a greater concentration of foreign language speakers have also shown to have a majority preference for one particular political view, which, if translated into hard votes, would be of great importance for electoral candidates.
Whether the translated materials have any bearing on the outcome of future elections remains to be seen, but many within electoral departments believe the law has sent a message to these communities that their opinions are a necessity in the American election process.