The City of Malden will now be able to transliterate the names of candidates on the ballots into Chinese, making the election process more accessible to the Chinese-speaking community.
MALDEN – Friday, December 2, 2022 – This Wednesday, Governor Baker signed H.4793, An Act Relative to the Preparation of Certain Bilingual Ballots in the City of Malden, into law, making Malden the second-ever city in the Commonwealth with transliterated candidate names on the ballots, after the City of Boston.
Under the amended federal Voting Rights Act of 1975, cities and towns with a considerable single-language population, defined as 10,000 individuals or five per-cent of the population, are required to provide bilingual ballots in their communities. However, these requirements often overlook one of the most important parts of a ballot: the candidates’ names.
In Malden, where almost 50 per-cent of the residents speak a language other than English in their homes and Chinese is spoken at nearly five-times the state average rate, the lack of transliteration of candidates’ names represents a critical barrier that prevents a significant number of residents from exercising their basic, constitutional right to vote. This is a particularly critical issue for Malden’s large Chinese-speaking population, whose character-based language system differs greatly from the Latin alphabet used in English. As a result, many Chinese-speakers will arrive at the polls able to read the instructions on how to vote but are unable to understand the names of the candidates on the ballot.
The newly-enacted law will remove this barrier by allowing Malden to transliterate the names of candidates on ballots into Simplified Chinese characters in all future statewide and general elections in the city. The Malden Board of Registrars of Voting will be responsible for using Simplified Chinese characters to phonetically spell out names of candidates for district and county offices in both federal and statewide elections. The transliterated names will then be provided to the Secretary of State, who will be responsible for producing the ballots accordingly.
“This law will finally ensure full and meaningful access to ballots for our Chinese-speaking voters,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “Every eligible voter in our Commonwealth should be able to exercise their right to vote, no matter what language they speak. I am grateful that this bill has passed, and it could not have been accomplished without the support of our AAPI community advocates, GMAACC, Greater Boston Legal Services, APIs CAN, the Malden City Council, Mayor Christenson and my colleagues in the Legislature.”
“The passing of H.4793 is an important step for voter accessibility in Malden,” said Representative Paul Donato. “Malden has a large Chinese population for whom English is their second language and it is important that they have the same ability to make their choice at the polls. I am proud to have worked with the rest of the Malden Delegation in passing this excellent legislation.”
“I am thrilled to see the passing of this law to support voting accessibility for Chinese-speaking residents in Malden. I hope to see similar revisions made across the state to continue making voting clear and understandable for all,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “It was heartening to see the dedication of so many community advocates throughout the process of making this change. Thank you to everyone who made their voices heard to bring bilingual ballots to Malden.”
“With the full delegation, I’m proud to support Malden’s leadership in this space,” said State Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian. “Ensuring informed access to voting is critical everywhere, including in our diverse and vibrant City.”
“It all started and ended with our community partners including the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, APIs CAN, and many others,” said Mayor Gary Christenson. “This great achievement is definitely the result of team effort between legislators, community advocates, with the full support of the administration and the City Council. Finally, we can come up with all the ideas and initiatives, but we need the people in position to help make them a reality. Thank you to State Representatives Paul Donato, Steve Ultrino, and Kate Lipper-Garabedian as well as State Senator Jason Lewis for their determination to make this happen.”