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Mayor de Blasio Launches Voter Registration Forms in Five New Languages, Expanding Access to Voting

July 14, 2016

Voter registration forms now available in Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French and Arabic

NEW YORK–– As part of the administration’s efforts to expand voting participation and access, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the launch of voter registration forms in five new languages: Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French and Arabic. 

“No one should be disenfranchised because of their language,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These voter registration forms in five new languages will help us involve even more New Yorkers in the voting process. New York is a city of immigrants, and these forms will help New Yorkers of every background cast their ballots on Election Day.”

“With these new voter registration forms, we are sending a clear message: civic participation matters for all New Yorkers, and all citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote,” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “New York City is the most diverse city in America, with over 200 languages spoken. With this announcement, the de Blasio administration has now ensured that there are accessible voter registration forms for 80 percent of Limited English Proficient eligible voters in New York City, and we will continue to expand these efforts in 2016.”

The administration has already taken multiple steps to increase participation in the electoral process and reduce barriers to voting. The Mayor issued Directive #1 expanding the requirements for agency-based voter registration, including a requirement that 19 agencies provide assistance with completing voter registration forms if requested, and has worked with the City Council to expand the agencies covered by the law. Additionally, the administration is currently implementing a pilot project to provide electronic, agency-based voter registration.

The new forms will be available on the Campaign Finance Board website (www.nyccfb.info/), which is also found on the homepage of NYC.gov under “Register to Vote.”

The City will also add additional voter registration form languages in the coming months beyond the five new languages announced today, with the aim to provide translated versions in the top languages spoken by limited English proficient eligible voters. Previously, the voter registration forms were available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Bangla.

Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs announced the launch of five new form languages at Homecrest Library in Brooklyn, where she was joined by the Campaign Finance Board, elected officials, community-based groups and leadership from the Brooklyn Public Library. A number of immigrant community organizations partnered with the Mayor’s Office on this initiative, including AALDEF (Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund), African Communities Together, Arab-American Family Support Center, CAMBA, Make the Road New York, MUNA NY and Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach.

Many New Yorkers may be eligible for citizenship and the benefits it provides, including voting. The City is also providing support to immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens through its NYCitizenship program, which Mayor de Blasio launched this year. As part of NYCitizenship, New York City residents receive appointments with a trusted attorney for help with citizenship applications, information sessions about the citizenship process and its benefits, and free and confidential financial counseling. U.S. citizenship gives residents the right to travel with a U.S. passport, vote in elections, and access more job opportunities. To learn more, visit www.nyc.gov/citizenship.

Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board said, “Today, New York City is sending a simple message to all its citizens: that we want you to vote, that your voice matters, and that our city works better when your voice is heard. Providing these registration forms in five new languages shows that the city is committed to broadening access to the democratic process for all voters.”

“With these new voter registration forms, we are empowering more of New York City’s diverse communities to vote, which in turn strengthens the vibrancy of our democracy. Forms written in Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Urdu will allow the voices of immigrants in this city to be heard, especially the thousands of Brooklynites who live in these languages every day. Every citizen has a right to be engaged in civic life, no matter what their mother tongue may be,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"As New York City continues to grow as a multi-cultural society, the different languages spoken by our citizens grows as well. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio for his commitment to eradicate the language barrier that has kept many great citizens of New York from their constitutional right to have a voice in the Democratic process. The launch of the voter registration forms in five new languages: Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French, and Arabic now reflects the rich diversity of our community," said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “It is our duty and our responsibility as Americans to make our voices heard. We have the power to effect change, but we lose that power when we don’t exercise our right to vote. Our diverse city represents a melting pot of cultures. By expanding the languages in which voter registration forms are available, it is my hope that more New Yorkers will sign up to take part in the Democratic process.”

"I have long supported and advocated for legislation that would make voter registration materials available in more languages, I am pleased that this step is being taken. Now, more American citizens, regardless of the language they speak, will be able to participate in the process. This truly reflects the greatness of our democracy," said State Senator Marty Golden.

"Until today, the battle to make the voting process accessible to more non-English speaking New Yorkers has been a frustrating one that's spanned many years and several administrations," said Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, whose legislative efforts to mandate Russian-language voting materials dates back to 2007. "I'm grateful to Mayor de Blasio for taking this bold step to ensure that many more thousands of New Yorkers have the ability to participate in the democratic process. I'm equally pleased that the Mayor chose to make this announcement in my district, where so many Russian-Americans will be positively impacted."

"I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for answering the call of a cross-section of immigrant speaking populations by making voting materials available in Haitian Creole, Arabic, French, Russian, and Urdu,” said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, who is Haitian-American, and speaks Creole. “Our communities and advocates have been asking for this change for years, and for people in my district, which is a highly populated immigrant district with Haitian-Creole being the first spoken language for many of the residents, this small change makes a big difference. I am personally proud as this addresses one of the voting rights bills that I introduced on the state level, which sought to meet the need of districts with high Haitian-Creole speaking populations throughout New York State. It is another way that the Mayor is making good on his promise to make New York a more inclusive city, especially and most importantly to new Americans whose voting rights are being protected and preserved."

“For far too long, potential voters for whom English is a second language have been disenfranchised because voter registration forms have been unavailable to them in their native tongue. I applaud the New York City Board of Elections for making these new forms available, and look forward to working with them to remove remaining barriers that prevent voters from fully exercising their right to vote,” said Assembly Member Helene Weinstein

“I applaud the Mayor, the Office of Immigrant Affairs and Council Member Treyger for breaking down language barriers and making voter registration forms accessible in more languages in New York City,” said Assembly Member Pamela Harris. “We must do more to create an inclusive voting process, and that starts with being able to read and understand election materials. Today, we are one step closer to fairer civic engagement and giving more New Yorkers the opportunity to get involved in our communities.”

“The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs decision to include a greater variety of languages for voter registration forms is a great first step for improving the quality of services to our neighborhood voters. It's vital that more steps are taken to make voters' experiences at the ballot easier and more efficient. This decision will hopefully encourage more people to come out and vote," said Assembly Member William Colton.

“One of the many strengths of being a New Yorker is our diversity – whether that is our different backgrounds, many languages and cultures. Adding additional voter registration form languages will build upon this strength and make sure that all members of our community can be involved in the voting process,” said Assembly Member Latoya Joyner. “Our communities include families from all walks of life and different countries – ensuring that all Bronxites and New Yorkers know how to become more civic-minded will guarantee that everyone has a voice.”

“In the world’s capital, one’s language should not be a barrier to civic participation” said Assembly Member David Weprin. “As the Assembly member who represents one of the most diverse districts in the city, I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for taking this step towards ensuring all New Yorkers have a voice in their government.”

"As diverse as New York City is I'm surprised that this hasn't happened earlier" said Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman. "We are so thankful that the Mayor has provided leadership on this pertinent issue."

“Our elections system needs major improvements. People are not voting and many who try to vote are frustrated when they go to the polls. I applaud this effort to boost voter information by printing brochures and forms in many more languages. It’s a necessary and cost effective first step to reforming New York’s antiquated voting process," said Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

“Making our elections more accessible and voter-friendly for all New Yorkers remains one of our great unmet challenges,” said Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. “While we continue to push for comprehensive reform through legislation and better election administration, it is great to see the Mayor step up by helping to ensure that language is not a barrier to participation.”

"Language must not be a barrier for eligible voters in New York City. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for recognizing this truth and for providing voter registration forms in more languages. Doing so accelerates civic engagement in the immigrant communities that contribute so much to New York's culture and economy,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with hundreds of different languages spoken,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch. “It is critical that nobody is excluded from exercising their democratic right to vote simply because of a language barrier. As the representative of a multi-lingual district, I provide funding for ESL classes, as well as doing educational outreach and offering social services and entitlement services for those who do not speak English as a first language. Providing voter registration forms in several new languages is an important step forward as New York City becomes even more inclusive and supportive of the cultural diversity that is all around us. Thank you Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Agarwal for your continued advocacy on behalf of all New Yorkers!”

“As the proud son of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the first Russian-speaking City Council Member, and the elected representative of many immigrants from all around the world, I applaud the administration for providing voter registration forms in 5 additional languages, expanding on previous efforts by the New York State Legislature and grassroots community movements to ensure that all eligible New Yorkers can register to vote, regardless of what language they speak. With the low levels of voter enrollment and turnout that we see today, it is imperative that we continue to break down barriers to voter participation throughout the electoral process. The translation of registration forms is an important first step, and I look forward to working with Commissioner Agarwal and Mayor de Blasio on ways to extend this increased language access to polling places during elections,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

“By providing voter registration forms to individuals in their native language, we are making voting more accessible to the many different people that make up our city,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “New York has struggled with a low voter turnout—but it’s up to us in government to remove the barriers that prevent too many people from voting. The new voter registration forms available in Haitian Creole and French, as well as three other languages, will empower voters throughout our city and help ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard.”

“New York City is a melting pot. The district I represent, Flushing, is one of the most diverse in the city. With such language and cultural diversity, I am committed to enhancing access to public resources and information. Thanks to Mayor de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for expanding language services to the Russian, Haitian, Creole, French, and Arab communities. I urge all New Yorkers to take advantage of our city's multilingual voter services, to register to vote and raise your voice on the election day,” said Council Member Peter Koo.

“The City’s libraries are centers of civic engagement in our neighborhoods and we are proud to partner with the Mayor’s office to improve voter outreach and registration,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “As a growing number of our patrons speak languages other than English, providing voter information in additional languages is so critical to ensuring participation in our democratic process.”

“The Shorefront YM-YWHA is pleased that the Russian speaking community, as well as other immigrant communities in NYC, now will have greater access and understanding of the voter registration process. We anticipate that even more immigrant residents who now have information and forms in the language they best understand will become civically active because of their increased voter registration access,” said Sue Fox, Executive Director of Shorefront YM-YWHA.

“At AAFSC, our mission is to empower new immigrants with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them, and to become active participants in their communities. Our staff and volunteers work every day with Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian immigrants from all five boroughs who need the vital support of our Adult Literacy and English classes, and our linguistically-competent social services. Arabic is currently the 4th most widely spoken language among English language learners in New York City, and we are thrilled that Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken this important step to make civic engagement more accessible to all New Yorkers. In New York, every person has a voice that matters and deserves to be heard, regardless of what language they speak,” said Lena Alhusseini, Executive Director of the Arab-American Family Support Center.

“CAMBA is proud to stand with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs today to make registering to vote easier for citizens who speak Russian, Urdu, French Creole, French and Arabic,” said Joanne M. Oplustil, President and CEO of CAMBA. “For the past four decades, CAMBA has been helping immigrants resettle here and become hardworking, contributing – and voting – Americans. Our immigrants deeply value the right to vote, and we are committed to ensuring that they have equal access to the polls.”

"This announcement is welcome news for New York's growing African immigrant communities," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together in the Bronx. "After English, French is the most widely shared language among New York's Africans. We are especially glad that New York City partnered with ACT and other immigrant community organizations to make sure that the translated voter registration forms are clear and culturally competent."

Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York said, "We applaud the de Blasio administration for its ongoing effort to make voting easier and more accessible, with language access as a component. Given the challenges that immigrant New Yorkers face when trying to register and cast their ballots, it's critical that New York City continue to take steps in this direction.”

"Registering to vote is one of the closest steps of exercising the rights and responsibilities of an American citizen. It gives the feeling of being included in the beautifully diverse community and a sense of shared responsibility to contribute for the common good. This wonderful civic engagement initiative will reassure us to remember America is not only our home, it is also home for our cultural home-language too,” said Mir Masum Ali, National Civic Engagement Director of Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA NY).

"New York City is the most diverse city in world, home to immigrants who speak hundreds of languages. It is critical that our New American New Yorkers are able to participate in the civic process and that's why we applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Campaign Finance Board’s efforts to expand language translation of voter registration forms to the city's top 10 languages," said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Ensuring that voter registration forms are available in Arabic, Chinese, Bangla, Korean, Urdu, Spanish, Russian, Creole, French, and English will expand our immigrant communities ability to be part of the political process with more ease and will empower them to vote in this Presidential election. The NYIC Civic Engagement Collaborative identified the expansion of translated voter information as a high priority and we are excited to be part of this first step."

“New York City is the ultimate city of immigrants. Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) welcomes the voter registration forms in multiple languages, which will ensure that more citizens are well-informed about this process. At COPO, we have translated the current form into many languages and regularly assist new American citizens in registering to vote. We have found that many new citizens are not aware of the voter registration process and as a result, they cannot participate in elections. These translated forms are essential to reaching people in their native languages and ensuring their participation in the civic life our city, state, and nation. Having these forms available in five new languages will empower many citizens to finally have a voice for their concerns in politics and city services to which they are entitled,” said Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council Of Peoples Organization (COPO).

"The Mayor's decision to provide non-English speaking New Yorkers with voter registration forms in their languages is another procedure of inclusiveness and respect. It adds to the many steps this administration has taken to make New York City the City of all its citizens. This move will eliminate the language barrier for the five groups and enable them to participate in the civic and political activities and enjoy their right to vote,” said Dr. Abdelhafid Djemil, President of the Islamic Leadership Council (Majlis Shura) of New York.

“It’s a proud moment in NYC history that more immigrant communities will have the opportunity to register to vote where they will no longer experience any language barriers to be a part of the Democratic process. I am extremely grateful for the visionary leadership of this administration for their inclusion of all communities. Many New Yorkers will now feel that they are just as important and as valuable as everyone else. This is truly a great day for New York that it continues to lead the World in building Bridges and tearing down Walls,” said Naji Almontaser, President of the New York Muslim Voter Information Club.

"Voting is a critical component in the participation of communities and individuals in the democratic process. Expanding voter registration forms into additional languages makes that process real and substantive," said Fahd Ahmed, Executive Director of DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving.

"Language barriers should never be an impediment to exercising one's right to vote and participate in choosing one's political representative, a fundamental pillar of our nation's democracy. We applaud the Mayor's efforts to ensure that citizens of all immigrant backgrounds can fully participate in this process and fulfill their civic duties, an effort we highly encourage at Chhaya," said Annetta Seecharran, Interim Executive Director of Chhaya CDC.

"A strong democracy demands all voters have access to the voting process - including those who speak English as a second language. In a city as diverse as New York, voter registration materials must be available in a myriad of languages to give every voter a chance to vote. We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for recognizing the importance of language access and expanding the translation of voter registration materials to include Arabic, Urdu, Haitian Creole and Russian," said co-Executive Director Ana Maria Archila, the Center for Popular Democracy.

"We applaud the Mayor for this initiative that recognizes the vital importance new citizens have played in the civic life of the city for more than 200 years. With Albany's failure to pass meaningful reforms, the city's ongoing improvements to its voter registration system offers some rare good news for voters," said Neal Rosenstein, Government Reform Coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group/NYPIRG.

"We welcome translation of voter registration forms as one step towards more inclusivity of new Americans into the democratic process. Through our work, we have found that language access is one of the main reasons Arab Americans do not participate, following issues like discrimination and confusion at the polls," said Mirna Haidar, Lead Organizer at the Arab American Association of New York.


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