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Ms. Deborah Wright
June 13, 2006
THE SENATE COMMITTEE on the JUDICIARY
Examining the Need for Voting Rights Act Section 203's Provisions Regarding Bilingual Election Materials
on behalf of the County of Los Angeles, California
The costs of L.A. County's ML program are reasonable in light of the challenges the County faces. Only eight States have more registered voters than our nearly four million registered voters. The 2000 Census reported that L.A. County has approximately five million voting age citizens, 12.9 percent of whom (644,505) are LEP in one of the six covered languages: 428,580 Spanish speakers; 95,700 Chinese speakers; 42,390 Korean speakers; 34,985 Tagalog speakers; 30,340 Vietnamese speakers; and 12,510 Japanese speakers. The cost of providing language assistance to these LEP voters, many of whom are unable to read and write in any language, is slightly less than ten percent of the County's annual election expenses. Considering all of these challenges, the percentage of election expenses for language assistance is reasonable and is virtually the same as the percentage of voters who need assistance.
My role with the County's program is to provide direct management oversight of the ML assistance program. In my capacity, I routinely provide data to the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Division in response to their ongoing inquiries about the program. Los Angeles County has long maintained a cooperative and professional relationship with this agency, recognizing that we share the fundamental aim of ensuring full access to voting for all eligible citizens.
Three key facets comprise the core of L.A. County's comprehensive multilingual (ML) program:
1) provision of translated written materials;
Translated Written Materials
? Sample ballot and voter information booklet mailed to each registered voter in advance of every election
Also, samples of translated polling place signs and numerous additional translated polling place materials are available at the voting precincts on election day.
In recent years we have been able to realize cost savings in providing multilingual materials by analyzing the cost components and restricting printing to the exact precincts within the County where written materials are needed. All ballot materials are translated into all required languages - for use on electronic voting equipment during our Early Voting period - but our costs were cut in half when we began printing these materials in a targeted way.
1) Census data
Additionally, the total goal of targeted precincts for Chinese was also increased by an additional 27 precincts based on input from CBOs and an additional 61 precincts where past elections ML tally cards indicated more than five voters had requested ML assistance in that language.
This same process is followed for all six VRA-designated languages. Additionally, due to CBO identification of heavy concentration of voters who speak Armenian, Russian and Khmer (Cambodian) in specific neighborhoods, efforts are made to recruit poll workers who speak these languages in order to expand ML services to voters in need. We are not required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide oral language assistance in these other languages, but we do so because we want to facilitate the ability of all voters to participate and cast informed ballots. Hiring bilingual poll workers does not incur extra costs, as bilingual poll workers are paid the same stipend as other election day staff, and of course perform regular duties of a poll worker as well.
As with translated written materials, oral assistance is also available prior to as well as on election day by calling our toll-free number at 800-815-2666.
CBOs including NALEO, MALDEF, APALC and many others collaborate with L.A. County in identifying neighborhoods and voting precincts in need of ML assistance in specific languages. This process is incorporated into the four-part targeting formula to recruit poll workers who speak the languages spoken in the neighborhoods served by the designated voting precincts.
The CBOs have provided assistance in recruiting bilingual pollworkers, distributing and suggesting additional venues for voter education and outreach, and assist in proofreading multilingual materials prior to distribution.
Training for Poll Workers and Precinct Coordinators
Precinct coordinators troubleshoot and assist poll workers at 10 to15 voting precincts on Election Day. Coordinators receive extensive training, including a section on Cultural Awareness that is focused on ML services.
How do voters learn about the widespread availability of L.A. County's extensive ML services program?
Every registered voter in L.A. County is mailed a sample ballot and voter information booklet approximately 3-4 weeks prior to every election. This booklet contains a full-page of information on ML services.
LEP voters may request that their names be included on our permanent list of voters who have a Request on File to receive automatically a translated version of the sample ballot booklet prior to each election in the mail.
An advertising program develops Public Service Announcements shown at no cost on cable TV and radio.
A multi-media advertisement campaign was initiated in advance of the November 2004 Election using Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds.
Partnership with numerous CBOs has been invaluable in getting the word out.
The large number of voting precincts that are targeted for recruitment of poll workers who speak the languages that have been identified as needed. For most elections the actual recruitment of ML poll workers achieved better than 90% of the established goal.
In both pre- and post-election meetings with attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), L.A. County's ML services program has been described as very good and comprehensive. Feedback from other jurisdictions Counties covered by Section 203 of the VRA indicates that the USDOJ holds L.A. County's multi-faceted program as a model for other jurisdictions to follow.
Our commitment to the permanence of our extensive, successful ML program is demonstrated by assigning specified staff to this program including a designated ML Coordinator, an Executive Liaison Officer and several additional full and part-time staff.