Six Nevada counties must provide help to non-English voters
Five Nevada counties are adding Pauite and Shoshone to the languages offered to voters this election season — with a personal touch.
Because those traditional Native American languages are verbal, written ballots aren’t the answer. So translators will be available.
“Fortunately, the law leaves open how you’re going to accomplish your outreach and accomplish this,” said Susan Bilyeu, chief elections deputy for the Secretary of State’s Office.
The law can be satisfied by oral assistance and publicity to make sure those who need the help are aware they can get it and how.
Two counties — Elko and Humboldt — already have experience with the issue.
“We’ve been under that restriction since the last census,” said Humboldt County Clerk Susan Harrer. “Since it (Paiute) is not a written language, as long as we can have someone available who can speak the language at the polling place, there isn’t a problem.”
She said the total registered to vote on the Fort McDermitt Reservation is less than 200, and most speak English.
“We have one precinct in town and we make sure we have some one available who speaks Paiute.”
Elko has the same system for handling voter needs at its Duck Valley Reservation and Elko Colony precincts.
Bilyeu said county officials indicated they could handle the federal requirements this year.
“It would have been nice if they’d had more warning,” she said, pointing out that the notice arrived July 26. “Most had sent their ballots to the printer by then.”
In addition to Elko and Humboldt, counties facing the Native American language requirements are White Pine for the Ely Reservation, Lyon at the Yerington Colony and Nye for the Duckwater Reservation.
White Pine Clerk Donna Bath said meeting the needs of their Native American voters shouldn’t be a problem.
“The Shoshone language is one of those with no written original form, but we sent a letter to the tribe asking if they have anyone they feel confident can translate for voters who may have language barriers,” she said.
She said all elections officials already provide special services for those who are visually impaired as well as special assistance for those with hearing and other problems.
“I don’t see it as a problem.”
She said the only issue for her office is the short notice the federal rules gave them but that she expects tribal leaders will have no problem finding a capable translator.
The remaining Nevada county on the federal list is Clark, which this year must provide Spanish language materials to assist its growing percentage of Hispanic voters. But Bilyeu said officials there anticipated that need and have already ordered the necessary materials.
Harrer in Humboldt County said they expected to come under Spanish requirements too this year.
“I guess the numbers weren’t there,” she said.
But she, like Bath, said if some group of voters needs a little help, they’ll try find a way to provide it.
“We’ll probably go out of our way to make sure that anyone who needs assistance gets it,” said Bath.
The mandates including a list of the counties in states across the nation affected were published in the Federal Register July 26. While Spanish is the most common, dozens of Native American languages are included along with Eskimo languages, Chinese, Japanese and Filipino among others.