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For the first time, N.H. is providing official voter information in three additional languages

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Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Unlike other states or jurisdictions, New Hampshire has not been federally required to provide election information in other languages, and state election officials have in the past resisted efforts to publish multilingual voter information in the absence of a federal mandate.

For the first time, New Hampshire voters can now turn to the Secretary of State for official voting information in Spanish, French and Mandarin.

State election officials have faced growing calls for multilingual voting information in recent years, including from Eva Castillo, who leads the New Hampshire Alliance of Immigrants and Refugees.

For years, she’s translated voter information into Spanish, and gone out to talk with Spanish-speakers about how to vote. But with information directly in Spanish from the state, she said, that makes her work easier.

“I don’t have to go around looking for everything, and making sure nothing has been updated, checking for updates and keep translating things on my own,” she said. “I'm really happy that finally we hear from the horse’s mouth, if you will.”

Information on voter registration, what type of identification to bring to the polls and how to fill out a ballot can now be found in Spanish, French and Mandarin on the Secretary of State's website. Official ballots are still only available in English.

Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said requests from Castillo and others and an increasingly diverse population spurred the office to translate its voter materials. There was an effort this past legislative session to require the Secretary of State’s office to do so, but it did not move forward in the legislature.

Unlike other states or jurisdictions, New Hampshire has not been federally required to provide election information in other languages, and state election officials have in the past resisted efforts to publish multilingual voter information in the absence of a federal mandate.

Castillo says, with New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status consistently under discussion, voter information available in more than just English is important.

“We need to really become a microcosm of what the rest of the country is, regardless of how many numbers we have. We have to make voting accessible for every single voting citizen in the state,” she said.

Scanlan said that he hadn’t thought of that as a reason to make the case to keep the state’s first-in-the-nation status but “it does reflect growth of minority populations that may need assistance in voting. We want to treat voters as equally as possible in the state.”

The Secretary of State’s office says these materials will be available at the polls, and they will survey local election officials after the midterms to hear how it went with voters. Scanlan said other languages could be added in the future.

Daniela is an editor in NHPR's newsroom. She also leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? You can email her at dallee@nhpr.org.

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