Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Alvaro Guillen, executive director of Connect Casino Road, at the Snohomish County Campus on Oct. 18.

Olivia Vanni / The Herald Alvaro Guillen, executive director of Connect Casino Road, at the Snohomish County Campus on Oct. 18.

Snohomish County funds Spanish voters’ pamphlets, but not ballots — yet

The county could become the second in the state to provide Spanish-language ballots without being required to.

EVERETT — In time for the 2024 presidential election, Spanish language voters’ pamphlets will likely be produced for voters in Snohomish County.

In the $1.66 billion county budget passed last week, the County Council allocated $30,000 to the auditor’s office to create Spanish voters’ pamphlets for the primary and general elections.

Council member Nate Nehring introduced the amendment funding the new initiative.

The county isn’t required by law to provide the ballots, but will do so anyway. Nehring said he was made aware of the issue by an article in The Daily Herald.

“Even if we’re not required to do it, it still seems like a good move to make,” Nehring said in an interview earlier this month.

County Auditor Garth Fell appreciated Nehring’s intent, but said more money will likely be needed to cover the cost of Spanish ballots, translation, outreach and everything else that goes into making election materials.

“The $30,000 — that’s the actual cost for sending it to a translation service, but it doesn’t really account for a lot of the additional costs to create a program that is effective,” Fell said.

The money is enough for translating voters’ pamphlets, but not ballots.

Fell said the office would need more cash to fund outreach and a new bilingual staffer who can make sure outsourced translations are accurate.

“We can fund just the translation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to reach the people that it needs to reach,” Fell said.

He said was “just disappointed” that the council didn’t seek his office’s input on the amendment. Going forward, Fell intends to have conversations with council members to clarify what the auditor’s office needs to sustain Spanish election materials.

Under the Federal Voting Rights Act, counties must require voting materials in an alternate language after meeting two requirements. The population must have more than 10,000 registered voters with limited English proficiency, or they must make up more than 5% of the total voting-age population. Out of the people who have limited English proficiency, more than 1.31% must be considered illiterate in English.

Snohomish County has over 4,000 Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency, or around 0.7% of the voting-age population. Of those, 7.6% are considered illiterate.

In Washington, four counties — King, Yakima, Adams and Franklin — are required to provide Spanish language election materials. Pierce is the only county to voluntarily provide such materials.

Alvaro Guillen, the executive director of Connect Casino Road and an advocate for language accessibility in government, celebrated the new provision in the county budget.

“It is a great step towards a more equitable voting process in our county and I hope that it inspires other counties to follow suit,” he said.

The next general election in the county will have the presidential race on the ballot, bringing a greater turnout.

“I view it as critical, especially with it being a presidential election, that we have as many people that have access to voting as possible,” Nehring said.

Ideally, he said, the state would pass a law including more money for this initiative.

“If the state does not do that,” he said, “I would be supportive at the county level of continuing this funding in future years.”

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

Offloading ferry traffic is stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street at the Edmonds ferry dock on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
2-ferry service restored on Edmonds-Kingston route — for a weekend

M/V Salish, one of the system’s smallest vessels, will fill in through Sunday after weeks of one boat on the route.

Jared Mead, left, Nate Nehring
At Everett event, Mead, Nehring look to bridge partisan gap

Two Snohomish County Council members can pinpoint the day they really started talking about putting civility over partisanship. It was Jan. 6.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A suspected gas explosion on Wednesday destroyed a house in the 19700 block of 25TH DR SE in Bothell, Washington. (Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
After a newly bought Bothell house exploded, experts urge caution

The owners had closed on their purchase of the house just two days earlier. No one was hurt in the explosion.

3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.