Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Civil Rights Groups Call on Election Officials to Provide Appropriate Language Access to Hawaii Voters
The Hawaiian language, along with English, are the two official languages of the State of Hawaii. From most official communications, you’d never know it. The situation described in the press release below is typical of state and county government administration across the board, and needs to be remedied. Of course, there are other languages spoken in the state that need to be accommodated as well.
From the press release dated August 4, 2020:
The ACLU Foundation of Hawai'i, Common Cause Hawai'i and the Hawai'i Institute for Philippine Studies have called on Attorney General Clare Connors and election officials to provide appropriate language access to limited English proficient and Hawaiian language speaking voters with translated ballots and voting material as required by state law.
State law requires that state agencies and covered entities provide written translations of vital documents for each limited English proficient group that constitutes five per cent or one thousand, whichever is less, of the population of persons eligible to be served or likely to be affected or encountered. The state also has an obligation to provide translations of voting material in the Hawaiian language as part of its obligation to ensure the revival of the Hawaiian language.
On O'ahu, there are roughly 44,700 Tagalog speakers (92.9% are 18 years and older), 38,700 Japanese speakers (88.7% are 18 years and older), 37,500 Ilokano speakers (93.4% are 18 years and older), 28,700 Chinese speakers (88.7% are 18 years and older), 17,700 Spanish speakers (85.1% are 18 years and older), there are also 17,800 Korean speakers and 9,400 Vietnamese speakers mostly situated in O'ahu.
Honolulu is presently providing translated materials upon request to Ilokano and Chinese speaking voters only.
In Maui and Kauai Counties, there are roughly 15,900 Ilokano speakers (91.4% are 18 years and older), 8,500 Tagalog speakers (92.9% are 18 years and older), 4,600 Spanish speakers (85.1% are 18 years and older), and 2,800 Japanese speakers (88.7%% are 18 years and older).
Maui and Kauai are not presently providing translated materials to anyone.
Statewide, of the 58,00 Ilokano speakers, 67.8% are citizens. Of the 58,000 Tagalog speakers, 78.9% are citizens. Of the 45,500 Japanese speakers, 73% are citizens. Of 29,600 Chinese speakers, 84.8% are citizens. Of the 26,200 Spanish speakers, 84.8% are citizens.
Finally, the counties have a moral and legal obligation to provide Hawaiian language translations of all voting materials. Last year, the Hawai'i Supreme Court recognized the state has an affirmative duty to revitalize the Hawaiian language.
"The cost of providing translated ballot materials incurs the most minimal costs to the elections budget. But without providing such materals, it extracts a great toll on society: the disenfranchisement of whole communities of voters," said attorney Lance D. Collins.
The groups are asking the attorney general to answer by August 18.
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