Spanish not required for Pitkin County election
October 15, 2011
ASPEN – Pitkin County is not required to conduct its elections in two languages – English and Spanish – the U.S. Census Bureau announced this week. In addition, the number of Colorado counties that must provide Spanish election materials has dropped from eight to three, based on 2010 census data.
Pitkin County election officials weren’t certain whether the county would meet the threshold that requires a dual-language election, but with no official word from the federal government as deadlines approached this fall, they ordered materials in English only for the Nov. 1 election.
Sample ballots that show each section in both Spanish and English are, however, available from the county, and one is posted at http://www.pitkinvotes.org that Spanish speakers may use as a guide. In addition, when the county recently hired an elections assistant in the clerk and recorder’s office, bilingual proficiency was among the desired qualifications.
The position is temporary this year, but the clerk’s office is seeking budget approval to retain the position through 2012, a general election year that will feature primaries, a presidential race and, most likely, a ballot loaded with issues.
Yolanda Thierfelder is available in the clerk’s office at (970) 429-2705 and at email@example.com to assist Spanish speakers who need election assistance.
County elections manager Dwight Shellman III estimated that printing all election materials in two languages next year would have doubled or tripled the expense. The county isn’t likely to take that step since it’s not required.
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“Given budgetary constraints, I think it’s likely all ballots will be in English,” he said.
However, Shellman anticipates the county will make sample ballots and certain other materials available in Spanish as well as English, and he hopes to recruit bilingual election judges to work at the county’s polling places. At the very least, the county will target polling places that serve the most Spanish speakers for bilingual judges, he said.
“We are definitely going to make an effort,” Shellman said.
Statewide, the most recent census data indicates that Denver, Costilla and Rio Grande counties are required to provide Spanish-language election materials under the federal Voting Rights Act.
Dropping off the list of counties that must provide materials in Spanish were Alamosa, Conejos, Crowley, Otero and Saguache. In addition, La Plata and Montezuma counties are no longer required to provide materials in Ute and Navajo, as well as English, according to the list, which was published Thursday in the Federal Register by the Census Bureau.
The data indicates improvement across Colorado in English proficiency and literacy rates, according to Scott Gessler, Colorado secretary of state.