Bowing to demands of the state Democratic Party, Secretary of State Kim Wyman will send a clarification to Spanish-speaking voters in Washington to correct a mistranslation in the Spanish-language voter pamphlet.
In response to a lawsuit threat from the state Democratic Party, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office will send notifications to 136,000 Spanish-speaking households in Washington, clarifying a mistranslation in the Spanish language voter pamphlet.
But Wyman, in an interview Monday, blasted the Democrats’ threat, calling it “nothing more than a political ploy” that “increases public cynicism and undermines public confidence in our election system.”
Democrats delivered the lawsuit threat Monday morning over an issue that Wyman’s office thought had been cleared up last week.
The Spanish version of the voter pamphlet used a broad translation for the word “felony,” one that also includes lesser offenses, such as misdemeanors. In Washington, potential voters are ineligible to vote if they are under state Department of Corrections supervision for a felony, but a misdemeanor is not disqualifying.
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So the broader translation (the pamphlet translated “felony” as “delito,” when in the past, voter materials have translated it as “delito grave”) could have led some Spanish-speaking voters to wrongly conclude they were ineligible.
On Friday, Wyman’s office took steps to clarify, sending a letter to all 647 registered Washington voters under Department of Corrections supervision for a misdemeanor.
Her office said the mistranslation was the inadvertent work of the professional translator they hired.
On Monday morning, the Democratic Party said that wasn’t good enough, saying the mistranslation could send “a chill through Spanish-language speakers throughout our state.”
The party, threatening court action, demanded that the clarifications be sent to every voter that received the Spanish voter pamphlet, even though, read literally, the mistranslation would not affect the overwhelming majority of those people.
“Word has gotten out about this confusion; who knows how else it could be interpreted,” said Democratic Party spokesman Marc Siegel. The Democrats also threatened a lawsuit last week over a separate ballot mistake in Pierce County, before the auditor there agreed to the party’s demands.
Wyman said that with barely a week before the election, and after consulting with attorneys, she decided to comply to avoid a court battle.
Her office said it would cost about $35,000 to send the letters.
“I really believe that the Democrats are manipulating the legal system and taking advantage of the time constraints before the election to gain a political headline,” she said.
Wyman is in a tight race for re-election against Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski.
She accused Podlodowski of trying to “politicize the campaign and politicize the office.”
Podlodowski, who has throughout the campaign accused Wyman of not doing enough to make it easier to vote, called the mistranslated pamphlets an outrage.
“It is unacceptable that only after threat of legal action is she moving forward to protect the rights of all Washington voters,” she said.