With spring municipal elections approaching, the Los Angeles City Clerk's Office launched an initiative Thursday to reach out to voters in the county's nine most commonly spoken languages in addition to English.
A slice of the city's almost $500,000 election outreach budget will be dedicated to "L.A. City Votes!" a campaign to educate and support voters with translation and other language services in the March 5 and May 21 municipal elections.
Support will be provided in Hindi, Thai, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Outreach materials will be printed in all of those languages, costing the city about $14,000 of the $492,434 budgeted for election outreach, according to Jacob Wexler, chief of elections for the city clerk's office. That amount does not include the costs of official election documents, such as sample ballots, polling place signs and other voter materials that are already translated into multiple languages.
The rest of the city's election outreach budget "pays for staff and expenses related to translation services, our efforts to recruit bilingual students to work at polling locations ... and other outreach activities," Wexler wrote in an email to Patch.
Common Cause California is one of 20 organizations the city has partnered with in its outreach efforts. During the November general election, the organization reported a lack of language support for many voters in Los Angeles County, said Common Cause California's Carr Tekosky.
- Related: Patch recently reported on a similar issue where Asian language voters in L.A. County received insufficient help at polling places.
"The goal of trying to get more languages for people to access their ability to vote is something that we find is really important to getting a greater number of people voting in general," Tekosky said.
Involving and educating voters, regardless of language, is an imperative, said City Clerk June Lagmay.
"We feel we must do outreach in all of these communities because L.A. is a city of different communities," Lagmay said. "It's not just ethnicities but it's gender, it's age, it's socio-economic—we want to make sure that everybody feels included and nobody feels excluded, whether they are proficient in English or not. … Voting is a primal, precious right."
This is a particularly exciting time for Los Angeles, Lagmay said, because there are races for mayor, city attorney, city controller and half of the city council seats.
"This is potentially a very large influx of new leadership and this is a prime opportunity for people … to ask the questions they want to ask, study the issues, study the ballot measures and make a very reasoned decision because this is what the future of the city is going to look like starting July 1, 2013," Lagmay said.
In addition, some $682,040 is being allocated to the hiring of city employees to work at polling places during the elections.
The City Employee Pollworker Program is about halfway to its goal of hiring 600 employees to work the polls, said Sara Gonzalez, project coordinator for the program.
"We found that the presence of a city employee at a polling place helps to ensure that those polls A, open on time, and B, follow the election code throughout the day, making sure that every voter that comes through has the opportunity to exercise their right to vote," said Gonzalez.
Reminder: If you want to vote in the March 5, 2013 primary election, the deadline to register to vote is Feb. 19. For more information, visit the city clerk's office Web site.
Other organizations partnering with the "L.A. City Votes!" initiative include:
• Armenian National Committee Western Region
• Asian Pacific American Legal Center
• California Participation Project
• Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment
• Central American Resource Center
• Chinatown Service Center
• Filipino American Community of L.A.
• Filipino American Service Group
• Korean American Coalition
• Korean Resource Center
• League of Women Voters
• Little Tokyo Service Center
• National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
• National Association of Latino Elected Leaders
• Pacific American Volunteer Association
• Rock the Vote
• South Asian Network
• Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project
• Thai Community Development Center