When dawn breaks on Election Day, polling stations across the country will welcome a diverse electorate. Among the eager voters will be many limited-English speakers, each with their unique hopes and challenges.

Ensuring that these voters can participate fully and confidently in the democratic process requires thoughtful preparation and dedicated support.

More than eight million U.S. voting-age citizens are limited English proficient. That’s why the landmark Voting Rights Act was amended in 1975 to help such voters. Still, millions of voters don't receive such assistance, according to PBS research.

Here’s how you can help make this Election Day inclusive and accessible for non-English speaking voters.

Before Election Day

Understand the Demographics of Your Area

The first step in preparing to assist non-English speaking voters is understanding the linguistic makeup of your community. Utilize census data and local demographic reports to identify the predominant languages spoken in your region. 

Partner with Community Organizations

Community organizations often have established trust with non-English speaking populations and can be invaluable partners in voter outreach and education. Collaborate with local cultural centers, language schools, and advocacy groups to spread the word about voting. These organizations can help disseminate information, assist with translations, and provide volunteers who speak the necessary languages.

Train Poll Workers in Language and Cultural Sensitivity

Poll workers are the frontline of the voting process. Training them in cultural sensitivity and basic language assistance can make a significant difference. Poll workers should be aware of the challenges non-English speakers might face and be equipped to handle them with patience and understanding. This includes training poll workers on how to access on-demand interpretation if needed, as well as how to access multilingual voting materials. 

Hold Multilingual Voter Education Sessions

Hosting voter education sessions in multiple languages can help demystify the voting process for non-English speakers. These sessions can cover how to register to vote, what to expect at the polls, and how to fill out a ballot. Providing this information in a familiar language can empower voters and increase participation.

Create Inclusive Marketing Campaigns

Your voter outreach campaigns should reflect the diversity of your community. Use inclusive imagery and messages in your marketing materials and ensure that these materials are available in multiple languages. Social media can be a particularly effective platform for reaching diverse populations, so consider creating multilingual content for your social media channels.

Make the Best Use of Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool in bridging language barriers. Advance materials like online voter registration forms, election websites, and informational videos should be available in multiple languages.

On Election Day

Provide Multilingual Voting Materials

One of the most effective ways to assist non-English speaking voters is by providing voting materials in multiple languages. This includes ballots, voter information pamphlets, instructions for voting, and signage at polling places. Many states have requirements under the Voting Rights Act to provide these materials in certain languages. However, even if your area is not mandated to do so, it’s a best practice to offer materials in the most commonly spoken languages in your community.

Ensure Access to On-Demand Interpretation

Additionally, on-demand interpretation is available for government offices and polling stations. LanguageLine provides one-touch, professional interpretation in more than 240 languages. This service can be accessed via traditional phone line or the LanguageLine app, which delivers live video or audio-only interpretation within seconds. This service can be a critical resource for voters who need immediate language support to navigate the voting process.

LEARN MORE: Case Study - Video Interpreting Helps Limited English Speakers Vote

Clearly Advertise the Availability of These Services

On election day, ensure that there are language assistance options available at polling places. This could include bilingual poll workers, volunteers, or even hotlines that voters can call for help. Clearly advertise the availability of these services so that non-English speaking voters know that help is available.

After Election Day

Monitor and Evaluate Your Efforts

Finally, it’s important to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts to assist non-English speaking voters. Collect feedback from voters and poll workers about what worked well and what could be improved. Use this information to refine your strategies for future elections.

LanguageLine Can Help

Ensuring that non-English speaking voters have the resources and support they need is essential for a truly democratic election process. 

By understanding your community, providing multilingual materials, training poll workers, partnering with local organizations, leveraging technology, offering comprehensive language assistance, and utilizing on-demand interpretation services, you can help ensure that every voter has a voice. 

LanguageLine has decades of experience working with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure voter access in multiple languages. We invite you to contact us to discuss how we can partner to make your voting process as inclusive as possible.