By Naeisha Rose
Interpretation services will be expanded on Election Day — Nov. 6 — at approximately 100 polling sites in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, according to the mayor’s office.
The purpose of the expansion is to help voters who speak Russian, Haitian Creole, Italian, Arabic, Polish or Yiddish.
In Queens alone, 14 polling sites will provide language services in Russian, Haitian Creole and Italian.
“The language you speak and understand should not be a barrier to civic participation,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Voting should be an easy task, and we’re upholding that truth by identifying and filling gaps in communities where translation services are needed. Whether it’s Haitian Creole, Russian or Arabic, we’re making sure that you’ll be able to participate in our democracy no matter what language you speak.”
Elected officials throughout Queens are excited about the expansion.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and giving people the opportunity to participate in the language they are most comfortable with makes for a more informed and inclusive electorate,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “This project will help voters who need assistance in a language other than English and will help elections officials better serve our diverse communities.”
Currently, there are language services at poll sites in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Bengali by the Board of Elections, as required by the Voting Rights Act.
“Voting is one of the hallmarks of our democracy and increasing interpretation services will improve voting access for limited English proficient New Yorkers. All voters must have equal access to the polls so that they can make their voices heard. I applaud this critical initiative and I look forward to this project benefiting many New Yorkers on Election Day,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz agreed.
“In our global borough alone, over 1.3 million people speak a language other than English at home, and we view this as an asset and source of pride. To vote is a precious right, and in an international city like New York, language must not be an impediment to exercising that right. Government has a responsibility to make voting as painless and accessible as possible. This is a boon for democracy,” said Katz.
Interpreters will be available on Election Day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose