Oregon Secretary of State looking for translators for election information

(Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan is looking for Oregonians who can help translate the state-issued Voters’ Pamphlet into 12 languages.

2021 law requires that the pamphlet, which includes biographical and endorsement information provided by candidates and is mailed to each voter, be translated into the most common languages spoken in Oregon beginning with the November general election. 

As part of the law, Fagan will form an advisory council of experienced translators and people who are part of a community that will be served by the translated election materials. Applications are available online and due by 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the council will begin meeting in July.

Council members will review translations and provide advice on other ways to make voting more accessible to voters who don’t speak English fluently. The positions are unpaid, but members will receive per diem payments of around $150 for each meeting. 

About 15.3% of Oregon residents, more than 600,000 people, speak a language other than English at home, and 5.5% of the state’s population rate their ability to speak English less than “very well,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The survey asks respondents who speak a language other than English to rate their English speaking ability as “very well,” “well,” “not well” or “not at all.”

Spanish is the most commonly spoken language other than English – about 9% of Oregonians, and 5% of citizens older than 18, the only residents who can vote, speak Spanish at home, according to the Census Bureau. 

Election materials will also be translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mien, Russian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. 

Fagan said in a statement that the recent law will make it easier for all Oregonians to vote. 

“Every Oregonian deserves the opportunity to participate in civic life in our State,” she said. “The Translation Advisory Council is a great opportunity to help shape a critical part of that work, and to begin removing barriers to voting for people who speak languages other than English.”

-Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle