City Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate) introduced new legislation today that would provide voters with more interpreters who speak the City’s most spoken languages available inside more polling locations across the five boroughs.
The measure, Int. 1282, would task the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) with providing interpreters for all designated citywide languages at poll sites which serve an election district with 50 or more voting age residents with limited English proficiency and whose primary language is one of the designated citywide languages.
The proposed VAAC would be is a non-partisan, impartial committee which advises the non-partisan, impartial Campaign Finance Board on ways to better assist and engage New York City’s voters.
“Our city must make voting easier and more accessible. Failing to provide adequate language access and interpreter service to assist the voters of a city where almost 40% of the population is made up of immigrants, where nearly half of the city’s population speaks a language other than English at home, is a form of voter suppression,” said Treyger.
The new bill would ensure that interpreters speaking Russian, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Urdu, French, and Polish would be made available at polling locations. NYC BOE currently provides interpreters speaking Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Bengali.
However, the provision would exclude languages for which the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) already provides interpreters.
“My legislation will help increase our city’s poor voter turnout rates and help more New Yorkers take advantage of this critical civil right,” added Treyger.
Since his election to the City Council, Treyger has been a strong proponent of increased language access at polling sites.
In 2014, the South Brooklyn lawmaker introduced a City Council Resolution calling on the BOE to provide Russian language interpreters at poll sites in communities with large Russian-speaking populations.
Then in 2016, when Mayor Bill de Blasio offered to provide NYC BOE with $20 million, Treyger and several elected officials from Brooklyn called for some of the money to be used to fund Russian and Haitian Creole interpreters at polling locations in communities where those languages were heavily spoken.
The former high school history teacher also proposed and secured the funding for a pilot program to place Russian and Haitian Creole interpreters at 15 poll sites across Brooklyn.
Additionally, the measure would also require that interpreters be made available within polling sites to the extent possible under state law.
“Poll site interpreters are not campaign workers. These are independently hired and trained interpreters. Additionally, the measure would also require that interpreters be made available within polling sites to the extent possible under state law,” added Treyger.