County ballots will be in English, not Spanish |

County ballots will be in English, not Spanish

John Colson

Spanish-speaking voters in the Roaring Fork Valley will have to vote on English-language ballots, although photocopied translations will be available on request to voters in Eagle County.The clerks of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are not legally required to provide Spanish-language ballots to voters, according to the Colorado secretary of state. That’s because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires the printing of ballots in translation only in those counties where 5 percent or more of the population speaks a foreign language.According to Kathryn Mikeworth, of the secretary of state’s office, only eight counties in Colorado meet that requirement – Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Denver, Otero, Rio Grande and Saguache. In addition, Mikeworth said, two counties must produce ballots in Native American tongues: Both La Plata and Montezuma counties provide ballots in both the Navajo and Ute languages.Dana Williams, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office, said it is up to the individual counties to determine whether there is sufficient need for them to provide Spanish translations of the ballots or other information concerning election procedures.The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice make the determination whether a county has passed the 5 percent threshold every 10 years, Williams said. Asked about counties where Spanish-speaking populations might be growing rapidly, she said she is unaware of any provisions for determining if a county has met the threshold at any time between the census years.Eagle County Clerk Teak Simonton said that in 2003 that county did provide Spanish-language ballots but no longer.”That’s because we had so few takers in 2003, when we did produce them,” she said. “Ever since then we’ve just provided translations. We feel that’s a more responsible use of taxpayer funds.”According to Simonton’s office, the ballots likely will be multiple sheets, photocopied and stapled together, that voters can use as guides as they vote on the official balloting machines.Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf also said her office is not providing translated sample ballots because the one year she did provide translations “nobody used them.” She said she will have three translators on hand at her Glenwood Springs office who can be dispatched to provide help at precincts around the county and that it is likely that some of her election judges will be Spanish speakers.On a related note, Tricia McKenzie, of the group Rock the Vote, said Wednesday that one of the group’s members, Richard Modina, is scheduled to appear tonight on the radio station KDNK to explain the ballot issue and translate the local ballot questions into Spanish for listeners from Aspen to Rifle. KDNK, located in Carbondale, broadcasts from Aspen to Rifle at various frequencies.She said Modina will be on the Spanish-language radio show “Radio Evolucion” from 8-9 p.m. Call KDNK at 963-0139 for more information.The clerk’s office in Pitkin County was not available for comment by Wednesday evening.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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