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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. ray brachelli says:

    Elidgable voters need to be American citizens. Beinging so they must be able to be English langue functional. Why then do we need multi-lingule ballots?

    1. Reality Check says:

      EXACTLY!!!!! Just as with the DMV, it should be ENGLISH only. If I go to a foreign country I do not expect them to cater to me!

  2. M2 says:

    End the “for English press 1” nonsense!

  3. lorenzo ajel says:

    i received one of those postcards asking if i want my ballot in tagalog. i dont, english is perfectly fine. i’d have a difficult time understanding one in tagalog. i called the registrar of voters. they told me they are required the US DoJ to do this, so they mailed the postacrds to all registered voters born in the philippines. that would include those who came to the usa before they could even speak! meaning they grew up here speaking english. all filipinos i know speak english. so this tagalog ballot requirement is totally unnecssary and waste of tax payer money when funding for education and healthcare are being cut! alameda should demand a waiver from this requirement.

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