Ashley Briggs April 2 2012 04:00:30 PM
For many naturalized citizens in the United States, one of the greatest privileges when receiving their citizenship is the ability to vote. Some of these new citizens are still learning English, and so many states, counties and local municipalities provide foreign-language versions of ballots and voting instructions in order to guarantee these new Americans fair access to our voting system. However, even the best intentions when it comes to providing free and fair access to our newest citizens can go astray.
As an example, in Arcadia, California the week of March 12, 2012, nearly 29,000 voters were sent election ballots which had been translated into Chinese with a grave translation error in the instructions. This error was critical enough to invalidate votes in Arcadia?s general municipal election in April.
This ballot provided instructions in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese. The English, Vietnamese and Spanish speakers received instructions to "vote for no more than two" of the five candidates for City Council. The instructions in Chinese, however, read: "Vote for no more than three." Ballots with more than two votes were automatically flagged as an "over-vote," and therefore voided.
Martin and Chapman Co., an Anaheim-based election consulting company which uses its own translation vendor, prepared the incorrectly translated ballots that went out to every registered voter in Arcadia.
Seemingly small translation errors like these can lead to high costs to correct the situation, as the City of Arcadia learned in providing replacement ballots and alerting City voters of the mistake through nearly every medium. City Manager Don Penman estimated that the translation error would cost the City between $7,000 and $10,000, and suggested that the election consultant reimburse these costs and stressed the need to double-check translations for the future.
In situations with such high stakes as official public elections, the need to correctly and accurately communicate information is even greater. That is why it is imperative that translations be checked and re-checked by qualified, professional translators to avoid costly mistakes such as what happened in the Arcadia municipal election.
- Comments