Sampan: Malden Celebrates Passage of Transliteration Law

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Credit: Dongdong Yang/Sampan.

By Dongdong Yang/Sampan

Officials, voters, and community groups celebrated passage of Malden transliteration law on December 15, 2022. It marked a significant step towards ensuring full access to the ballot box for Chinese-speaking voters with low English proficiency. According to a 2021 American Community Survey, 22% of Malden households speak an Asian or Pacific Island language at home. About 40% of these households are considered to have limited-English speaking proficiency.

Officials included Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, Massachusetts Senator Jason Lewis, Massachusetts State Representative Steven Ultrino, Massachusetts State Representative Paul Donato, Massachusetts State Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian, Malden City Councilor Amanda Linehan, Councilor Steve Winslow, Councilor Carey McDonald, and Kelsey Perkins with Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s Office.

Organizations included Asian Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network (APIs CAN); Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC); Chinese Progressive Association (CPA); Greater Boston Legal Services Asian Outreach Unit; Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC); Massachusetts Voter Table; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

Some historical context is important to consider here. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1975 noted that “through the use of various practices and procedures,” those who did not speak English had been effectively excluded not only from the ability but also the accessibility to voting. In other words, not everybody had a seat at the table. Not only did this provision in the Voting Rights Act guarantee transliterated ballots in primary and general elections, but also all written aspects of the voting process. Written material must be accurately translated and oral communication (especially in areas where literacy is low) must meet the needs of its target group.


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