In an ongoing effort to expand voter participation, New York City has added a total of 11 new languages to voter registration forms over the last several months. Prior to these additions, there were only five languages on the voter registration forms, which included English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Bangla.
New York will now have voter registration forms available in 16 different languages. In July, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced five new languages: Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French and Arabic. In September, there were six more additions: Albanian, Greek, Italian, Polish, Tagalog and Yiddish. Mayor Bill de Blasio had the following to say about the new additions:
“New York is a city of immigrants. Now this November, the diverse communities that make New York City great will be empowered to make their voices heard. This announcement marks our ongoing commitment to ensure that every eligible New Yorker can go to the pools and participate in a hallmark of American democracy.”
Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs estimates that over 90 percent of New Yorkers who are limited in their English-speaking proficiency will now have access to voter registration forms in the language that they speak at home. The new forms can be found in municipal buildings such as city libraries, post offices and the city’s official government website.
Agarwal said there are over 200 languages spoken in New York, calling it “the most diverse city in America,” and that increasing the number of languages for voter registration has expanded accessibility in New York.
It is important to note that because these languages are not required by federal law, they are only available on voter registration forms. The new languages will not be included on voting ballots for the presidential election on Nov.8.
Matthew Sollars, a New York City Campaign Finance Board spokesman, said registered voters whose languages are not on the ballot will be permitted to bring someone with them when they vote, if translators are not already provided. With an ever increasing population of varied ethnicities, they hope this will drive up voter numbers and potentially make a change.
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