One Day at the Elections
by Javier Rodriguez Diaz
On Tuesday, November 3rd 2015 I had the opportunity, through my Community Placements class, SPN 385, to participate as a Spanish interpreter for the City of Salem during its local elections. I was far beyond excited because it was the first time I worked as an interpreter for a public agency. I chose the shift from 1:30pm to 8:00pm. It was a long shift, but it was worth the effort.
I was assigned to the precinct in Salem High School. When I arrived, I was nervous because I was the only Latino among the poll workers. I was surprised because besides two men who were working on a census, I was the only Latino in the room. After a few minutes, the first Latino voters started to arrive. Some of them did not require my help, but a great number of them did. These individuals were able to speak some English, but still they were not able to communicate with the English-speaking workers at the registration table. All the poll workers were elderly and had trouble reading the names of voters in the registration books or understanding what they were saying. Also, voters had to prove their identity because the poll workers confused their last names.
Some of the voters were frustrated and told me that things like that keep happening every time they go to vote. I believe there is a huge need for city workers who are trained to work with the Latino community. The majority of communication issues at the elections were not even related to individuals not being able to speak English. The city administration and the whole community need to be aware that the demographics are changing and that they must provide all citizens with services regardless of their culture or language.
At the end of the day, I was able to help a significant number of Latino voters. This made me happy because I can see that Latinos are becoming more involved in politics and civics. I am planning to volunteer again for the upcoming elections and I extend an invitation to everybody to do so.