Bilingual ballots increase voter access in Boston and Quincy



Voters who registered for bilingual ballots in Boston and Quincy can take them to the polls on Nov. 6.

Voter registration closed Oct. 17. Bilingual ballots in English and Chinese are mailed with voter information, said Vincent Au, elections clerk for Quincy. This is the city’s first time to offer Chinese ballots.

Boston offers Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballots in specific precincts. “We have ballots available for every citizen,” said Matt O’Malley, Boston City Councilor for District 6. “It’s an absolutely reasonable cost for all Bostonians to have a ballot.”

In Quincy, there may be Chinese speakers on-site, depending on the polling station, Au said.

Asian presence
The Asian population in Boston grew 31.6 percent from 36,275 people in 2000 to 47,733 people in 2010, according to the 2010 census. Asians represent 9.3 percent of the Boston population and the fastest growing ethnicity in the state, increasing by 46.8 percent from 2000 to 2010.

However, Asian participation at the polls has been low. In Quincy, only 13.81 percent of the 6,680 Asians eligible to vote did so in November 2011, representing 1.68 percent of the electorate. “Voter registration is low because most Chinese are not concerned,” Au said. “It’s the language. They don’t understand it and they don’t ask.”

Boston bilingual voting in Chinese and Vietnamese took effect in 2010 and will expire in 2013. Senior citizens have the most difficulty learning languages and need bilingual ballots the most, said Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz in a prepared statement.

Printing bilingual ballots cost Boston $75,000 for the March presidential primary.

In March, the Boston City Council passed a resolution to share printing costs with the state and target precincts better. The greatest need for bilingual ballots is in precincts where elderly homes and public housing developments are located, according to Elections Commissioner Geraldine Cuddyer in the meeting docket.

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