N.H. Democratic Party Expands Voter Hotline Help In Eight Languages
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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.
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.”
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