(photo credit: Anthony Warnack)
Alameda County, like many other counties in California, is home to a number of non-English speaking residents. California’s diversity is one of the many things that make this state so great.
Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau collects data on population and housing. The latest data was collected in 2010. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has used that information to reach out to its communities with a new bilingual newsletter.
“After the census was conducted, we discovered we had two additional languages spoken, in the county. Alameda County now supports a total of five—English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog,” said Cynthia Cornejo, deputy registrar of voters.
“It’s our duty to make sure we service all within the same manner. We started the newsletter to be able to reach out to those communities.”
The newsletter has information on “how to register to vote, how to be a vote by mail voter, how to contact the Registrar of Voters, anything they need to know about elections in the county. But that’s not all. The newsletter will also be the place to find out what’s happening in that particular community, like an event, that they might be interested in participating in.”
The idea came from the Registrar of Voters’ Language Advisory Coordinators who work closely with volunteers from a number of community-based organizations.
“They meet quarterly to go over “a number of topics, in terms of training, bilingual materials, polling place experiences, anything we feel we can get their input on which is very rewarding and helpful to us to be able to hone in on what the needs are and we’ve found that the needs are different amongst each community,” said Cornejo.
In addition to the newsletters, the county office will be updating its website to include a separate page, each in the different languages, expected to be up and running by the beginning of next year.
The first newsletter will be sent in the coming days. It’s expected to go out to registered voters via email every couple of months.
“We’ve found that, in partnering with these groups, that, the key is first engaging potential voters so they can register and then once they’re registered, helping them through to know what’s involved in being a registered voter and also having them participate by having them exercise their right to vote and then from there, possibly having them work at the polls to help them service their own community.”
Cornejo is hopeful the county’s continuing efforts to engage their residents, throughout the year, and even on non-election years, will increase voter turnout and participation.
The Future of California Elections (FOCE), of which California Forward is a partner, has been working to examine and address the unique challenges facing the State of California’s election system.
“California has worked hard to break down some of the barriers that make it difficult for folks to get their information to register and to vote, yet the state ranks 45th in voter turnout. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office’s efforts to engage with voters and potential voters is a model for other counties. By responding to its communities and developing new ways to connect with them to provide thorough information for upcoming elections, the county is getting more Californians engaged and involved. California Forward applauds their efforts,” said Caroline Bruister, Program Director.