Everett, Equity, and the 2020 Election: Translating the Polls

When voters came to the polls on Tuesday, there were to be no misinterpretations.

That’s because for the first time ever, the City and the Election Department stationed language translators – speaking Spanish, Haitian Creole and Portuguese – at every polling place to make sure no one got confused and left without voting.

For the first time in Everett’s history, there are translators at all polling locations to assist in communication while voting. This was done in an effort to make the 2020 Presidential Election voting process more accessible to the City’s diverse population and in an effort to increase voter participation in the City.

“It’s a very important thing because we can make sure everyone’s voice is heard,” said translator Renato Trombini, who was the lead translator at the Wellness Center on Tuesday. “We need to make sure they know what they’re doing and if they’re in the right place. These are new polling places (because of COVID) so returning voters might be confused, and there are also a lot of new voters this election. That’s part of why we’re here – to make sure every voice is heard and every vote is cast at the polls. We’re here to make sure people don’t get confused and leave and that a language isn’t a barrier to vote. We look forward to continuing this work in the future.”

A good many of the translators are actually high school students, and at the Wellness Center, Everett High juniors Jazlyn Previlon, Jennifer Flores and Diana Sola were on hand with Trombini to translate and answer questions. All said they have grown up in Everett, and have seen family or friends hit road blocks in terms of voting or protocols due to a language barrier.

“I think it’s important for us to be here because many in our community may not understand how to do certain things,” said Previlon. “When people don’t totally understand the language, they can get frustrated and leave, and they feel hopeless. We’re here to help them and give them the right path to go through and restore that hope.”

Added Sola, “It is particularly good interpreters are here now because this year is a year where many people haven’t voted before have come out. It’s great there is a lot of diversity here and people can vote and we can help them if they need it.”

“It’s very inclusive,” added Previlon.

Everett’s Election Commission in collaboration with Everett’s first Latina City Councilor, Stephanie Martins, and the City Clerk’s Office utilized a portion of a grant accepted by the City Council to add language interpreters to each of the City’s six polling locations on Election Day.

“Many of our diverse voters might face challenges checking-in, finding the correct polling place, and understanding the voting process,” said Martins. “The polls can sometimes be intimidating. I am incredibly proud to be able to have the city and the Administration fully embrace such a bold initiative to encourage our diverse voters to feel included and vote. We put a lot of effort into this and our interpreters, who are mostly current EHS students and graduates, are proud to use their language skills to help others feel included. The City continues to move forward faster each day.”

Added Mayor Carlo DeMaria, “I was so pleased to hear of such a bold initiative be presented in our City. Voting can be an intimidating process of those who have never done so before. Having someone who speaks the same language as you being able to answer questions about the process of voting will definitely increase voter participation in this election and elections to come. I’m grateful to Councillor Martins, the City Clerks Office, and the Elections Commission for stepping outside of the lines for the purpose of equity and inclusion.”  

Some of the translators are Everett High School students, and all will be paid for their service. These individuals have received adequate training by the Clerk and Councilor Martins.

The collaboration and team work also counted on the efforts of Lucy Pineda, Everett’s first Latina Elections Commissioner, who joined Councilor Martins in sending polling and elections information and materials to multi-lingual newspapers.

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