Spanish-speaking voters can call a new hotline to ask election questions or report voter intimidation. The Democratic Party of Arkansas is launching the voter protection hotline to assist all Arkansans no matter their party affiliation.
“This is a historic election in Arkansas for Latinx voters,” says Manuel Tejada, vice chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Hispanic Caucus. “Not only because of the nature of the race, but also because we have more Latinx candidates than we’ve ever had in the history of Arkansas.”
In the past, Tejada says there have been complaints of voter intimidation and harassment. There are also instances where poll workers didn’t have the answer to voters’ questions so the hotline was created to address these needs.
He says the state has done a poor job of sharing information in a language other than English and that extends beyond the election to the distribution of public health information during the pandemic. Tejada says Megan Godfrey, a State Representative from Springdale, has pushed the governor and the Arkansas Department of Health to share information in languages other than English such as Spanish, Marshallese and Vietnamese.
“It was a lot of work,” Tejada says. “So it’s not something that’s been intuitive for the state and that’s apparent in our ballots because they have not put out ballots in Spanish or any other language other than English.”
Although some Spanish speakers can also speak English, they may not be able to read it. In Arkansas, ballots are not presented in Spanish, but you are allowed to take a translator with you to the polls. Tejada says unfortunately, you can’t have a single translator stationed at a polling location.
“According to the state law, one translator is only allowed to translate for five people,” Tejada says.
DPA chairman Michael John Gray says although Arkansans can use a translator while voting, finding one can be a barrier.
“There are huge roadblocks to voting,” Gray says. “There are a lot of things that need to be made easier across the board, but for the segment of the population that English isn’t their first language, these are no-brainers and not to address them, you would think there’d be some underlying reasons that aren’t in logic, frankly.”
Arkansans can call the Spanish-language hotline while polls are open. The hotline will remain open until about an hour after polls close. Voters can also leave a voicemail if they call after hours.
Gray says the DPA intends to provide an informational hotline for Arkansans once the election is over. You can access the current Spanish-language hotline by calling 501-299-5460.
Early voting continues this week and Election Day is Nov. 3. To find out when and where you can cast your vote, contact your local county clerk’s office.