In a large, diverse and politically contentious country like the United States, language interpreters and translators are becoming invaluable during political elections. In fact, the last two contenders for the U.S. presidency, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, both hired Spanish interpreters for their campaigns.
The U.S. has increasing numbers of enclaves of citizens of different nationalities who are eligible to vote. Many of them don’t speak enough English to understand televised candidate debates or to decipher news reports about the candidates. Most of those who do speak English are already polarized toward one of the two major parties the media promotes, which means candidates need to reach out more and more toward non-English speaking voters to get enough votes to be elected.
In Florida candidates debate on Telemundo, a Spanish language TV station, where questions from commentators are interpreted into English, and the candidates’ replies are dubbed into Spanish. In other states candidates take interpreters with them to meet the voters. Some videotape themselves speaking, dub the speech into different languages, then post the video onto their campaign website, YouTube, or other sites. Some candidates put together brochures in other languages and some set up phone hotlines with interpreters, so voters can have questions answered.
Interpreters and translators are also needed for the actual election day. The U.S. federal Voting Rights Act requires that ballots be printed in any language where more than 5% of the voters in that area have a hard time with English. In a city like Lowell, Massachusetts, that means Khmer – to accommodate the Cambodians that make up 25% of the city’s inhabitants. In other cities in that state, ballots are printed primarily in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
On Election Day interpreters help guide non-English speaking voters through the voting procedures. They guide them to the right election official, help officials find a voter’s name in their registration list, show voters how to use the voting machines, help them fill out necessary forms other than the ballot, and keep an eye out for discrimination shown toward voters.
If you are an election official, a candidate, or the supporter of a candidate, you need look no further than Dialog One for your political translation and interpretation needs. Whether Khmer or another language, we can supply someone to help you with the language of your choice.