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Voting is a Universal Language: Ensuring the Franchise for the Growing Language Minority Community in Minnesota

By Terry Ao Minnis. Full Text.

Minnesota has long held a reputation for being proactively pro-democratic and on the cutting edge of breaking down barriers to the ballot box and making voting more accessible. At the same time, no matter how well a state is doing, its election administration can always be improved. Addressing a major barrier to voting for a growing segment of the Minnesota electorate—the language barrier—is one necessary improvement. For voters who speak English as a second language, and who have some difficulty with the English language, the complex and somewhat confusing election process can be daunting and difficult to navigate. This can lead to depressed voting participation rates for this community. But breaking down the language barrier, by providing effective language assistance and increasing opportunities for language access, has been shown to increase voter participation.

This Article will discuss the demographics of Minnesota’s language minority population, the obstacles language minority voters face, and the different ways in which Minnesotans can access language assistance, including through available federal protections for language minority voters applied to Minnesotans, as well as through state-based opportunities for increased language access.