The Expanding the Voluntary Opportunities for Translations in Elections (VOTE) Act (HR 8770) presents the US Congress with an opportunity to support voters in language minority communities by increasing access to translated voting materials. Voters with limited English proficiency face unique challenges registering to vote and accessing the ballot box. These barriers must be removed to extend the freedom to vote equally to all eligible voters regardless of the language with which they are most comfortable.
Eligible voters deserve equal access to register and vote under the law. Increasing the language accessibility of voting materials allows voters to feel confident in voting and become educated and informed as they vote on high-priority issues in their communities. In our interconnected, digital world, it is easier than ever to provide translated voting materials to voters. A failure to provide those materials creates a barrier to participation for communities with limited English proficiency.
The accessibility of voting materials for voters of diverse language backgrounds has long been a priority for the League. In 1975, the League was part of a successful coalition effort to expand the Voting Rights Act to cover language minorities. And in 1996 and 1998, LWVUS defended these minority language provisions of the VRA by working against congressional “English-only” legislation that would have effectively repealed them. Through this work, the League seeks to enact its vision of protecting and expanding voting rights and ensuring that everyone is represented in our democracy.
HR 8770 will work through three main channels: grants to jurisdictions to implement translations; proactive communication of the legal requirements to states; and a study to evaluate potential future reforms to translated voting materials.
The proposed grants would incentivize and support jurisdictions going beyond the requirements of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to cover languages that do not trigger section 203 coverage of the VRA. This would further expand the accessibility of voting materials including voter registration notices, forms, instructions, assistance, and ballots. Additionally, the bill would create a multi-agency study to evaluate the impacts of reducing the threshold required to provide translated materials and assess the expansion of language minorities to include additional languages.
Contact your representatives today and tell them now is the time to make voting more accessible for all voters.