National voter form available in three indigenous languages


Just days before Thanksgiving, the federal government announced that the national voter registration form would for the first time be offered in select Native American languages.

The Election Support Commission announced on Monday that the form will be translated into Yup’ik, Navajo and Apache, expanding all non-English offerings to 20 languages. The EAC said this expansion was made in celebration of Native American Heritage Month and as part of their efforts to improve the accessibility of voting.

“The Navajo Nation is again leading the way by allowing our sacred language to be translated to get more of our people to vote,” said Seth Damon, chairman of the Navajo Nation Council. “The Native American voice is powerful and our sovereign nations will continue to vote in the United States.”

Native Americans were not granted full US citizenship or the right to vote until the Snyder Act was passed in 1924. And for the past century, Native American voters have faced significant ballot barriers. Access to postal voting was of particular concern during the 2020 election as many Native American voters live in areas with no traditional mailing address or access to post offices.

“Alaskan indigenous people deserve equal access to all parts of the electoral process, and translating key forms and content into our indigenous languages ​​is an important step in that direction,” said Samantha Mack, compliance manager, language support for the Alaska Division of Elections.

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Eligible US citizens can National voter registration form, however, must follow country-specific instructions to register or update their voting information. In addition to English and the three Indian languages, the form is available in Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

All language offers are written translations, with the exception of Apache, the first audio translation of the form. Some Native American languages ​​are mostly or exclusively spoken languages, making written translations essentially impossible.

“Without the support of native speakers and translators, translating elective terminology into other languages ​​can often be difficult,” the EAC commissioners said in a joint statement. “By having access to electoral materials translated by native speakers from their own communities, Native American voters will better understand the electoral process and be more accessible.”

The Navajo Nation is also hoping for a Navajo audio translation to talk the form through to voters, Damon said. The EAC said in its announcement that the agency plans to expand the audio translations it offers in the future and explore other ways to improve Native American voice access.

“Working with Indigenous speakers to translate the national mail voting registration form into Yup’ik, Apache, and Navajo languages ​​removes some barriers that limit indigenous voters’ participation in US elections and complies with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act “Said Native American Rights attorney Matthew Campbell, attorney for the fund, leads the voting rights of the nonprofit legal organization. “Meaningful democratic reform requires this kind of inclusive participation and a commitment to support the right to vote for all eligible citizens.”

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