Alameda County Scrambles To Add Mandated Ballots In Tagalog, Vietnamese

OAKLAND (KCBS) – The growing number of Tagalog and Vietnamese speakers in Alameda County has elections officials scrambling to translate ballots, signage and other voter information in order to comply with federal law.

“Going forward, every election that we conduct, we will have to produce material in now five different languages,” said Registrar Dave MacDonald.

The county already printed material in English, Chinese and Spanish.

The Voting Rights Act requires elections materials to be translated into any language spoken by at least five percent of the population in a given area. 2010 census data reflects the growing diversity in the East Bay.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Santa Clara is the only other Bay Area county to run elections in so many different languages. MacDonald estimates it will cost several hundred thousand dollars to meet the federal requirements.

“We have to make sure that everything on our website is translated,” he said. “We have a lot of signage at all of our polling places. So we are converting or translating all of that.”

The biggest challenge though will be hiring bilingual poll workers. MacDonald said recruiting poll workers when there is no presidential race is difficult even when language is not a consideration.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to be recruiting people that speak Tagalog and Vietnamese,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge. There’s no question about it.”

MacDonald said the additional cost of developing the new elections materials would probably be billed back to individual cities as the county does with other election costs.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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