Meet VoterVOX, an app that’s making democracy accessible, in every language
We live a polyglot country, one in which people speak hundreds of languages. At 18MillionRising.org, we see this as a beautiful thing, as something that strengthens and enriches our communities. Yet as our country has grown more diverse, our civic infrastructure hasn’t kept up. Nowhere is this more clear than when we examine our voting system, which today, hampered by language access policies and laws that have yet to fully reflect our multilingual reality, leaves millions of people de facto disenfranchised.
To put it more simply: millions of people are prevented from voting because they aren’t provided translated election materials and ballots.
That’s where we come in (and right in time for this year’s election). Here at 18MillionRising.org, we’re launching VoterVOX, an app that will connect Limited English Proficient (LEP) voters with multilingual volunteers to help them understand their ballots, ensuring that everyone who wants to vote gets information in their preferred language.
Here’s how it works:
Our goal? To make democracy accessible, in every language.
We know that democracy isn’t just about voting, and that language access isn’t only about our government providing translated materials, though that is essential. Building a polyglot democracy requires that all people, no matter what language you speak or read and write, can participate fully in civic life, and language access is about designing systems that include people in every step of the process.
Tanzila Ahmed, Campaign Strategist at 18MillionRising.org, often talks about the barriers that keep AAPI immigrant voters from going to the polls. The challenge isn’t apathy — it’s structural barriers that drive low voter turnout:
- A barrier to voting information
- A barrier to the mechanics of voting
- A barrier to engagement
- A barrier to in-language resources
- A barrier to voting rights
We designed VoterVOX to address many of these barriers at once, by pairing voters with an actual person who speaks their language, who will then assist them in making sense of the often-confusing information about voting and help answer any questions they may have.
It’s a tool that our partners, grassroots organizations like Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Hmong American Partnership, will be using to support the important and necessary organizing they are already engaged in — and that’s key. Expanding language access isn’t just about delivering information from a central source to LEP voters, like mailing a voter guide in Chinese or Khmer or Bangla. It’s a matter of using our community’s strengths — our language diversity — and facilitating in-person, one-on-one connections.
VoterVOX is as much about community organizing as it is about voting.
The Asian American Electorate
Our community is incredibly diverse — and growing rapidly. Today, there are more than 20 million Asian Americans in the US, and our communities speak more than 100 languages and dialects. Yet there are only 11 states where counties or cities, under the mandate of the Voting Rights Act, are required to provide election materials and ballots in Asian languages, and even in those states, it’s often only a few counties and one or two languages.
When two-thirds of the AAPI electorate are immigrants, and when AAPI voters are three times more likely than Latinos to report that language barriers prevented them from voting, it becomes clear why language access is so important.
Language access is an issue that our government can’t solve on its own, under the current framework of the Voting Rights Act. We also know that our community has the resources to bridge the language access gap — and that’s our people.
Join us in making democracy accessible, in every language.
Are you multilingual in an Asian language? Sign up to become a volunteer! We’re adding more languages every day.
Are you an organization interested in using VoterVOX? Drop us a line directly at email@example.com.