The VOTE (Voting Opportunity and Translation Equity) Ordinance
All citizens have the right to vote and deserve equal opportunity and access to the ballot. The VOTE Ordinance will expand access to fully translated ballots and voting material for more suburban Cook County residents with limited-English-proficiency in 2020.
On September 26, Commissioner Kevin Morrison and I introduced the Voting Opportunity and Translation Equity Ordinance to address this inequity.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 has not been updated since 1992, and only requires that covered states or political subdivisions (which Cook County is) translate voting materials in English and for persons of American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Native or Spanish heritage who meet a threshold of 10,000 or more limited English speakers.
In Cook County, 35% of residents speak a language other than English at home, according to the most recent census data available.
We can and must do better.
The proposed VOTE (Voting Opportunity and Translation Equity) Ordinance expands the number of languages that suburban Cook County ballots and voting material must be translated into, beyond what is already required by the VRA.
This ordinance could empower thousands of suburban Cook County residents to more actively and confidently participate in the democracy that serves them.
How the VOTE Ordinance works:
Starting next year, each single language that has 13,000 or more limited-English-proficient suburban Cook County residents will be guaranteed a fully translated ballot, both electronically and paper, and all translated voting materials.
Starting next year, each single language that has 10,000 or more limited-English-proficient suburban Cook County residents will be guaranteed all translated voting materials, including a sample ballot.
The ordinance will also codify non-ballot language access including strengthening our protections of Section 208 of the VRA, such as bringing a translator with you to the ballot and making it easier for limited English speakers to access the language support services available to them. This includes requirements about standardized and visible signage that is translated into relevant languages.
The final determination of which languages meet this new standard will be made every three years by the Office of the Cook County Clerk, based on census data and in consultation with community groups. This triennial review and reporting process will better account for changing demographics.