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Richmond election ballots will offer English, Spanish translations

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:31 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - For the first time, Richmond voters will now be offered ballots that are all in English and Spanish.

“There’s nothing more empowering for a voter than to know who it is they’re voting for,” said Keith Balmer, general registrar and director of elections for the City of Richmond. “It should be irregardless of whether you speak English or if you speak Spanish.”

The change is in accordance with revisions made to the Virginia Voting Rights Act, which provides protection against voter suppression, discrimination, or intimidation.

“It just felt like this was the time to introduce this form of ballot just to improve voter accessibility to voters who speak Spanish,” he said.

The registrar’s office says voters who prefer to speak Spanish will have automatic access to accurate translations of all ballot instructions and items in the upcoming general election.

With help from the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement, the ballots will be available for absentee and in-person voters to provide access to translations for Richmonders who are more comfortable speaking Spanish.

“It’s just feels the right thing aligning with the work we do on inclusiveness and equitable access to programs and information,” said Karla Almendarez-Ramos, manager of the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement.

These ballots come as the U.S. Census Bureau reports Hispanics account for 10.5 percent of the city’s population.

“I think it’s just an opportunity to ease people that English is not their first language to exercise their right and civic duty,” said Almendarez-Ramos.

Translations offering a stepping stone towards future outreach efforts to share more information to Hispanics in future elections.

“The second step would be us going into the community and engage with voters in the Hispanic community so they can understand what’s going on as far as what the electoral process has to offer for them,” Balmer said.

Balmer says plans for these outreach efforts will solidify after the November election.

The General Registrar’s Office invites any organizations focusing on Spanish language voter outreach to contact the office to facilitate collaboration and deliver reliable voter information.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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