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Effort underway to require N.H. to provide multilingual voting information

A photo of Eva Castillo holding a door open, and on that door is a poster with information about voting in Spanish.
Casey McDermott
/
NHPR
Eva Castillo is one of a growing number of local activists trying to engage New Hampshire's Spanish-speaking voters. "Vote Now New Hampshire Hispanics," shown on the poster here, is another initiative working in this area.

Despite a growing community of immigrants, New Americans and other non-English speaking residents, New Hampshire does not provide official election information in other languages besides English.

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Rep. Manny Espitia, a Democrat from Nashua, is trying to change that. He’s proposing a new law that would require information about New Hampshire elections to be published in multiple languages. The bill text is not yet final, but Espitia said his goal is to make it easier for all eligible voters to participate in local elections.

“I want to make sure that people feel comfortable voting, wherever they are, regardless of what language they speak,” Espitia said.

Some other state and local election jurisdictions are required by federal law to provide information on how to register or vote in other languages. New Hampshire is not currently one of those places, and state election officials have in the past resisted efforts to publish multilingual voter information in the absence of a federal mandate.

But Espitia says the state shouldn’t have to wait for an order from the federal government to make this happen.

"We should be proactive,” Espitia says. “And I think we should be taking the steps to hopefully make sure that folks feel more included in our democracy."

Without more action from the state or municipalities, some community activists have taken it upon themselves to provide more election information in Spanish and other languages.

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