Politics

State rolls out new advisory committee for elections guidance

FILE: Voter registration and sample pamphlets are printed in multiple languages.
FILE: Voter registration and sample pamphlets are printed in multiple languages.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

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The California Secretary of State's office is accepting applications from volunteers to help advise it on ways to make voting a better experience for non-English speakers and those who speak English as a second language. 

Under a new bill signed in September, the state will create the Language Accessibility Advisory Committee comprised of 15 people. The group will meet once a month in Sacramento or teleconference to address such issues as improving translations of voting materials and increasing outreach to communities where English is a second language. 

Not knowing English can be a high barrier to voting; registration can be confusing and the number of choices on the ballot can be daunting. In California, there's the added challenge of serving voters who are so diverse that state elections information is offered in 10 languages.

As part of the committee's mission to help ensure equal access to voting for all, members will advise the Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office on changes that could improve voter information guides.

Although the panel isn't focused on voter turnout, improvements could result from the committee's efforts to increase the non-English speakers' participation in the electoral process.

In 2014, statewide turnout for California's general election hit a record low with just 31 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. Only 17.3 percent of eligible Latinos and 18.4 percent of eligible Asian-Americans voted during the election, according to the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project.

Anyone interested in joining the committee, can submit an application online by Jan. 15.