On Thursday, July 14, 2016, New York City officials announced that voter registration forms will be translated into an additional five languages, including: Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Urdu.
This is an important step forward in in the fight for greater language access. Within the African community of New York, French is the most common shared language after English.
While immigrants must speak English to become citizens, voter registration forms can be confusing or discouraging even for native speakers. Today, many French-speaking immigrants can now begin to exercise their civic rights as U.S. citizens in a language they are comfortable in.
ACT members and staff played an important role in this initiative: ACT served as an advisory community group to the Mayor's Office, reviewing the proposed French translation of the voter registration forms to be sure they were clear and culturally appropriate. ACT convened a group of our Community Interpreters, who suggested a number of changes that the City adopted.
ACT Staff and Member pictured with Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner at NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, holding the French voter registration form
The Fight Still Continues
Although the recent translation of voter registration forms are a welcomed and much deserved victory for immigrants throughout NYC, ACT's fight for greater language access still continues. With both state and federal elections approaching in the coming months, ACT will continue advocating for culturally competent poll site representatives, in addition to other tools that will provide our community members with the resources they need to cast their votes and engage civically.
ACT will also continue its language access campaign in areas of medical and health resources, education and schools, legal assistance, social services, and more. Without language access at the city and state levels, African immigrants will not be able to get ahead or have their voices heard.