Op-ed: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month should extend to the ballot box

FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2020 file photo a sign directs people where to vote at a polling place during early voting in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

By Mary Janet Ramos

October 12, 2023

With 30% of the Silver State’s population identifying as Latino/Hispanic, there is no better time than Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our community. We are the largest minority group in the state, one that positively contributes to Nevada and fosters it to be a state we can all be proud of.

But, we are not just a photo opportunity for politicians on the campaign trail. We are people with real experiences who are impacted by policy decisions made at every level of government: local, state, and federal.

The Latino community in Nevada is rapidly growing, and so is our political power. Approximately 22% of eligible voters are Latino/Hispanic, making us the largest minority voting bloc in the state. But its important to note that our community is not a monolith. We come from different countries, backgrounds, ideologies, and beliefs. Our diversity does not fit a narrow spectrum.

Our community is a vibrant, resilient, and dynamic force that will make its voice heard in Nevada’s upcoming elections.

The most recent data released from the Nevada Secretary of State highlights why our state is viewed as a political battleground and why we expect an onslaught of attention – both good and bad – on Nevada voters throughout the 2024 election cycle.

We know that false narratives and baseless claims are a danger to our democracy, and they have already caused enough damage by sowing confusion and doubt about the credibility of our election system. As we navigate the complexity of the upcoming presidential primary, June primary, and general election in 2024 and wade through an overload of information, including an egregious amount of mis- and disinformation, our election officials have a duty and responsibility to disseminate accurate and trustworthy information in the languages we speak.

Over half a million Nevadans list Spanish as their language spoken at home, and it’s important for those in charge of our elections to recognize this and take action. Election officials should create and disseminate accessible and reliable information by ensuring the availability of translated voting information, materials, and other resources, as well as bilingual poll workers as we show up to the polls to cast our ballots.

Nevada had a golden policy opportunity with Assembly Bill 246 to make this a reality statewide. However, Governor Lombardo vetoed this legislation, leaving federal and state minimum guidelines in place as the standard. All Voting is Local Action Nevada supported AB 246.

Last year, in partnership with several groups, All Voting is Local Nevada released “Ballots for All: Improving Language Access for Nevada Voters” in English and Spanish to highlight the need for translated ballots and voter education materials in the state. Our analysis of geographic and census data revealed over half a million Nevadans over the age of 18 speak a language other than English, with recent data census revealing that 291,280 of them are Spanish speakers. This underscores the need for more counties to provide voting materials in the languages voters speak.

This year, AVL Action Nevada released a Ballots for All: Improving Language Access for Nevada Voters fact sheet in English and Spanish with updated data and policy recommendations that supported AB 246.

Vetoing AB 246 was a missed opportunity, because only Clark County is required to comply with federal guidelines and provide voting materials and voting options in Spanish. Washoe County is the only county that voluntarily provides bilingual ballots and voting information in Spanish.

It is imperative that our registrars and commissioners step up to the plate like they did in Washoe and begin providing translated materials voluntarily. Commissioners and registrars have the power to do this, and the Secretary of State can also deploy state funds to translate current election information on their website in Spanish and other languages.

Every voter matters, and engaging and connecting with Latinos is crucial to ensuring that our democratic process is inclusive of our communities. No one should be left behind in the electoral process. This is especially important for those of us whose primary language is Spanish.

Our community and voices are important not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but year-round. Celebrating and recognizing our diversity, voices, lived experiences, and cultures should also come with the guarantee that we are involved in everyday policy discussions through accessible avenues, especially when it comes to the ballot box.

  • Mary Janet Ramos

    An organizer at heart, Mary Janet Ramos has been actively engaged in voter outreach efforts through civic engagement, advocacy work, and union and campaign organizing.

CATEGORIES: POLITICS | VOTING

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