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Salt Lake County accommodating Spanish-speaking voters

Published September 19, 2012 12:32 pm

Election • County also plans to have bilingual poll workers available.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For the Nov. 6 general election, Salt Lake County will publish voter information guides and ballots in Spanish and will have bilingual poll workers available to help voters whose first language is Spanish.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires the county to provide the election materials in both languages because the 2010 U.S. Census showed that the county's proportion of Spanish-speaking residents surpassed a certain threshold.

The county's compliance "reflects the letter and spirit of the law … and is the right thing to do," County Mayor Peter Corroon said Wednesday, speaking in English and Spanish. "We recognize Salt Lake County is becoming more diverse. Our goal is to reach out to accommodate all voters' needs."

County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said the county successfully implemented the U.S. Justice Department mandate in June's primary election. Her office hired 127 bilingual poll workers to staff polling places identified by the census as having a high percentage of Spanish-speaking residents and also had staff members in the clerk's office who were available to answer questions.

Because turnout for the general election is expected to be much higher than the low-participation primary, Swensen said she is looking for more bilingual poll workers. Spanish-speaking individuals interested in this job should contact her office, she added.

The county's willingness to carry out the federal requirement pleased Archie Archuleta, president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza.

He noted that Corroon and Swensen conferred with local Latino leaders to find the best way to implement the mandate, calling them "two champions of the right to vote." Archuleta, who also spoke in English and Spanish, encouraged Latinos to "take advantage" of the county's effort. "Please, dare to vote."

Swensen said the language requirement cost the county "several hundred thousand dollars." But expenses were held down, she added, because a bilingual member of her staff translated voter information and ballot language into Spanish.

In addition, hiring bilingual poll workers was not an extra expense. Poll workers were needed at those sites anyway, Swensen said, and the ability to speak a second language was just another desired job skill.

mikeg@sltrib.com

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Bilingual poll workers

Persons interested in working at the Nov. 6 polls should contact the clerk's office online at clerk.slco.org/ or call 385-468-7400.