Disenfranchisement of Spanish speakers in Weld County?
Earlier today, the news from the Colorado Progressive Coalition sounded dire. A press release from the nonpartisan group, which had been conducting get-out-the-vote campaigns in Weld County, said that Spanish-speaking voters were "running into major problems" casting their ballots, and a protest was planned to highlight the issue.
By noon, bilingual translators were only available at five of Greeley’s eleven polling places, Coalition organizing director Lindsey Hodel said, and additional, volunteer translators were being told they could only help two voters all day.
This was troubling, because an estimated 27 percent of Weld County’s population is Latino. And unlike Denver, ballots up there are not required by law to be printed in Spanish. This means many voters need a little personal help at the polls -- and they weren’t getting it. "The effect of all this is that potentially thousands of voters who speak Spanish may not be able to vote today," Hodel said.
Potentially yes. However, Hodel was not able to offer any actual polling-place horror stories.
Hodel only knew that last week, during early voting, people had reported waiting two hours for the county to send over a Spanish translator. So she was assuming the waits today could be much longer. She referred Westword to her colleagues over at Colorado Common Cause and Just Vote Colorado, who were supposed to be keeping track of the specific tales of woe.
Alas, they didn’t have much more information. "Voters are in some cases leaving without voting because they don’t have the resources [to translate]," Colorado Common Cause's Jenny Flanagan said. But she couldn’t cite any examples from actual voters, either.
Which left us with Steve Moreno, the Weld County clerk. He said there were bilingual poll workers at seven or eight sites, and if additional translators were needed, people could call into his phone bank to have them dispatched. But by around noon, he hadn’t received had any such calls. "There has not been a complaint about that," he said.
As for the volunteer translators, he said there was no limit on how many people they could help as long as they filled out a new voter-assistance form every time.
All in all, Moreno seemed rather flummoxed by the whole situation. He said he’d even gotten a call from a Washington Post reporter, asking about the Spanish speakers and the protest.
"I’m Latino," he said. "Obviously I’m not gonna do anything to cause an uproar in our county."
So the mystery remains. If you’re having trouble voting in Weld County, let us know. We’d be happy to spread the word. -- Lisa Rab