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N.H. Democratic Party Expands Voter Hotline Help In Eight Languages

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Dan Tuohy, NHPR
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The New Hampshire Democratic Party is expanding its voter assistance hotline to cover eight different languages most commonly spoken by the state’s immigrant and refugee communities, filling in where state election officials have declined to provide official bilingual voting resources.

The state Democratic party launched their voter hotline (603-466-8683, or 603-GO-N-VOTE) earlier this year as part of their broader turnout operations for the 2020 elections, but at first only in English. They’re rolling out additional language assistance in Spanish, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Korean and Nepali starting this week.

In New Hampshire, state officials only publish voting information in English. For additional assistance, voters can call hotlines run by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office (1-866-868-3703, 1-866-VOTER03 or electionlaw@doj.nh.gov) and the Secretary of State’s office (1-833-726-0034), but it's not clear that either agency is equipped to help voters who don’t speak English. 

(For NHPR’s voter guide, click here. Para una versión de nuestra guía en español, haz click aquí.)

Some community leaders have asked Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office to offer translated voting information in other languages, but Gardner said his agency is not required by state or federal law to do so. Gardner did offer to work with community groups who want to do their own translations, and encouraged communities to recruit more bilingual and multilingual pollworkers to help bridge language barriers during the voting process.

It’s not clear how many people in New Hampshire’s voting population would benefit from additional language support. But according to Census data, about 6.4 percent of residents were born in another country and about 7.9 percent speak a language other than English at home. 

To get updates on the 2020 election and more of NHPR's political reporting, sign up for our Primarily Politics newsletter.

New citizens have to demonstrate English proficiency as part of the naturalization process, but local advocates for New Hampshire’s immigrant communities have pointed out that the state’s voting forms can be confusing even for those fluent in English.

Among those on call to help voters navigate the process through the Democrats’ hotline is Jon Widjaja, a regional voter protection director for the party. Widjaja says he grew up speaking Indonesian, as his parents immigrated to the United States from that country, and is eager to put that to use helping members of New Hampshire's growing Indonesian community exercise their voting rights.

“New Hampshire has a history of having elections that come so close, within just a handful of votes, and so every vote matters in the state,” Widjaja said. “And having this information hotline is important because in New Hampshire, there's actually a sizable Indonesian population relative to the rest of the country.”

The hotline will also rely on the help of volunteers like Allie Horwitz, who lives in Massachusetts but plans to soon start a job as a public defender in New Hampshire. Horwitz says she lives in Nicaragua for a year after college and continued practicing Spanish while working on immigration issues during law school.

“I’m a new lawyer, I only just graduated from law school like a year and a half ago,” Horwitz said. “But I thought, you know, maybe I can help. Maybe there’s something I can do.”

How to Help NHPR's Reporting on the Election

If you're running into problems when trying to vote absentee or in-person in New Hampshire, we want to hear from you. We can't act in any kind of enforcement capacity, but we can help shine a light on issues that deserve more attention. If you're running into a serious problem that warrants official action, you should also reach out to the New Hampshire Attorney General's office at 1-866-868-3703 (1-866-VOTER03) or electionlaw@doj.nh.gov.

To get in touch with NHPR journalists directly, you can contact us at elections@nhpr.org.

You can also share your experiences as part of NHPR's partnership with ProPublica's Electionland, a collaborative reporting project that tracks voting problems across the country. (Click here to learn more about NHPR's involvement in the project.)

To help out with Electionland, here’s how to sign up and get in touch.

  • SMS: Text the word VOTEVOTA (for Spanish) or ?? (for Chinese) to 81380 (standard text message rates apply).
  • WhatsApp: Send the word VOTEVOTA (for Spanish) or ?? (for Chinese) to 1-850-909-8683.
  • Facebook Messenger: Go to m.me/electionland.
  • Complete this form (or the one below) to share your election experience with us so ProPublica and our partners can investigate.

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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