We Must Do More to Get Rid of Barriers to Voting
COLOR urges lawmakers to ensure access to multilingual ballots as a first step to closing the gap in access to the political system that impacts our daily lives.
(Denver, CO) – Statement by Katherine Riley, Policy Manager for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) on the hearing on House Bill 1011, which requires multilingual ballots:
“When it comes down to it, there are a small group of people who get to make huge decisions about our lives. Politicians pass legislation that determines who gets health insurance or who can afford to seek reproductive health care like contraception or abortion. They move policies that limit funding for programs to help people put food on the table or that determine standards around fair affordable housing. They make rules around immigration and deportation and whether families will continue to be torn apart. They push regulations about how pregnant people will be treated in prisons or how we will address the very real maternal mortality crisis facing Black women and women of color in this country will – or will not be addressed. The stakes of the decisions in the political process are high, especially for the Latinx community.
The system is supposed to be there to meet people’s needs and to be a representative democracy. The problem is that the ability for each person to freely choose who they vote for has slowly been stripped away. We can and must do more to ensure that we each get a say in who sits at the tables and gets to be in the halls of power. That is why COLOR is proud to speak out in support of House Bill 1011, which requires multilingual ballot access.
We must do all we can to make sure that a piece of paper doesn’t determine how people are treated and that regardless of documentation all people in our state are protected and ensured basic health, rights and dignity.
Every 30 seconds, a Latinx person turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote. That’s about 66,000 people every month according to the Pew Research Center. This is a large block who need to have a voice in the process and yet in a 2016 survey, 1 in 6 Latinx respondents reported “lack of Spanish-language assistance or materials” as a barrier to voting.
To ignore the language needs of our communities is to ignore the right to participate in the system plain and simple. Offering support for language access creates opportunity to make sure that in every district the voices of the people are heard. It means ensuring the people elected truly represent the will of the people.
We recognize there may be questions around how best to fund or structure these efforts, but we must find the solutions and to move forward to meet this need. Language justice is a very real challenge throughout systems and sectors in our state that frankly do not feel open or accessible to many people. We must do better.
A core and powerful value of a democratic process is that people may freely and openly participate. Providing multilingual ballots and other translated election materials supports this opportunity and can create a feeling of acceptance in your district and across the state. As we wrestle with questions around ensuring that our political systems work for everyone and represent the needs of the entire community, this is a simple, but important step we can take.”
Katherine Riley is available for interview up on request.