In the upcoming primaries on Sept. 13 voters will see some changes at the polling sites.
According to Brian Abram, Republican commissioner, translators will be on site at the polling sites. The state Attorney General's office has called on 10 counties, including Chautauqua County, to help Spanish-speaking voters.
According to Democratic Election Commissioner Norman Green, the Attorney General's office brought to the county Board of Election's attention of the high number of individuals of Puerto Rican descent in Chautauqua County.
"They're actually coming to (the county Board of Elections) specifically for our high population of those from Puerto Rico," Green said.
The recommendations from the Attorney General's office was part of the Voting Rights Act which requires all voting materials, including ballots, be available in Spanish as well as having a Spanish speaking translator at polling sites.
"I do think it's important ... we do have a high Puerto Rican population in the county and Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States," Green said.
Some changes have already been implemented by the county. The most noticeable change comes from the Board of Election's website www.votechautauqua.com. Google Translator is now located at the top of the website. From the drop down menu, more than 60 languages can be selected.
"It will allow every voter to view (the website) in their language," Abram said.
Also new on the website are absentee ballots available in English and Spanish. Ballots at polling sites in November for the general elections will be in both Spanish and English. The county is also utilizing bilingual voting flyers with directions on how to vote. New in November will be a Spanish translator at polling sites in Dunkirk and Jamestown as well as a roving translator who will be able to travel to various sites.
This upcoming week, the county Board of Elections will have a conference call with the Attorney General's office to discuss the new requirements.
"There's a follow-up meeting to go over some of the points that they have given us," Abram said. "It's dialogue between the county board of elections and the Attorney General."
The Board of Elections is making quite an impression at the state level, according to Abram.
"They are pleased with us to embrace (the changes) quickly ... we encourage the voters' accessibility," Abram said.
Abram also said the Board of Elections is working on contracting with AT&T to have translation capabilities on phone lines as well as working with the League of Women Voters to recruit more bilingual translators.
"The Board of Elections is always anxious to reach out to voters that may be disenfranchised," Green said.
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