The voter pamphlet tells voters that in order to vote, among other requirements they must not be under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington state felony. But the Spanish version translates “felony” as “delito,” a broader term for breaking the law.
Voter pamphlets sent to Spanish-speaking voters in Washington contain an inexact translation, one not used on other state-issued Spanish voter information, that could lead to voters thinking they are not qualified to vote, the Green Party of Washington alleged Monday.
The voter pamphlet tells voters that in order to vote, they must be 18, a U.S. citizen, a Washington resident and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington state felony.
But the Spanish version translates “felony” as “delito,” a broader term for breaking the law.
“A ‘delito’ would even be applicable to speak about a minor violation of the law, such as not stopping at a red light,” said Ana Gonzalez, a legal assistant at Lawgena, a Seattle Spanish-speaking family law firm. “If you literally translate both words, ‘felony’ and ‘misdemeanor,’ they both would translate into one single word, that is ‘delito.’ ”
Those convicted of a misdemeanor are still eligible to vote, while those under supervision for a felony are not.
David Perez, the president of the Latino Bar Association of Washington, called the translation “really disappointing.”
“The Spanish speaking reader is left with the impression that if they have been convicted of any crime — not just felonies — and are currently under the supervision of the state, they cannot vote, and that’s simply not the law,” Perez said. “If this discourages even one otherwise eligible Spanish-speaking voter from casting a ballot, it’s a travesty.”
The state has previously used a more precise translation in voter material.
On voting instructions, accessible through the secretary of state’s website, the requirements refer to a “delito grave.” Spanish language voter registration forms and the 2014 voter pamphlet also refer to a “delito grave.”
“ ‘Delito grave’ most closely, if not exactly, matches the English term ‘felony,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ‘Ofensa menor’ or ‘delito menor’ would better match the English word ‘misdemeanor.’ ”
The Green Party said the inexact translation would frighten Spanish-language voters out of voting and amounted to voter suppression. They called on Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman for an apology and a correction.
Wyman’s Democratic challenger, Tina Podlodowski, also piled on, accusing Wyman of a “pattern of voter suppression” and calling for “proactive outreach to all Spanish speaking voters who received this inaccurate information.”
Wyman’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.