by Brian Zylstra | October 12th, 2011
Our Elections Division received word Wednesday morning from the U.S. Census Bureau on which political jurisdictions in Washington and other states must provide language assistance during elections for groups who are unable to sufficiently speak or understand English to take part in voting.
The Census announcement shows that King is the only county in Washington that is impacted by the new Census determinations based on the minority language provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act.
King County already is subject to the VRA’s minority language requirements, as it currently provides elections materials in Chinese. With the new determinations, King County also will have to provide information in Vietnamese. We don’t expect King to print Vietnamese ballots until the next scheduled election, in February.
Adams, Franklin and Yakima Counties have provided materials in Spanish since 2002.
There was speculation that more Washington counties would be added to the list of jurisdictions having to adhere to the minority language requirements.
Here is a link that offers more info about the political jurisdictions nationally that are subject to the Section 203 provisions (covering minority language requirements) of the Voting Rights Act.
According to the U.S. Census, Washington’s Hispanic-speaking voting age population that was counted under the minority language requirement increased from 31,095 in 2000 to 47,167 last year, and the state’s impacted Asian language population rose from 105,950 to 165,080 during that period.
Cristina Labra, our State Election Division’s minority language coordinator, pointed out that while the number of U.S. citizens counted under the minority language requirements expanded nearly 43 percent over the past decade, 48 fewer political jurisdictions nationwide are now subject to this mandate. Why the drop? There has been a decrease in the number of minority-language speakers who are not sufficiently literate in English.