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San Diego’s Election Ballot Translated For Growing Chinese Community

Responding to growth in the San Diego Chinese voter population, the Registrar's office is printing the ballot and other voting materials in Mandarin Chinese.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires election materials to be translated wherever 5 percent of a local population, or 10,000 voting-age citizens speak the same language and have limited English proficiency.

San Diego’s Chinese population has met that threshold, according to U.S. Census 2010 data.

Su Nguyen, a language coordinator for the Registrar of Voters, said the office is prepared to handle the added language.

"We have 120-something poll workers who can speak the language at the polling place, and we also have a liaison who acts as coordinator between the community and office, and staff in the office who can help the voter on the phone," said Nguyen.

Nguyen said the San Diego Chinese voter population stands at about 15,000, and the overall Asian population has grown nearly 25 percent in the last decade. He said the language barrier does add some challenges.

"The phone is ringing continually," he said. "Each phone call we have, because most of the people they don’t understand much about election procedure here. That’s why we spend a lot of time for each phone call to explain.

The San Diego County election ballot is now available in four languages, including Vietnamese, Spanish and English.

The Vietnamese translation became available in 2004. That population stands at 80,000 and 10,000 are registered to vote in the upcoming election, said Nguyen.

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