Harris County Adds Chinese Language To Voting Materials

U.S. Department of Justice
New data from the Census Bureau shows Harris County needs to add the Chinese language to its voting and election materials. The county's Chinese population grew by 24 percent in the past decade.

Harris County's overall Asian population increased by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010. More than half of the growth was in the Chinese community.

Rogene Gee Calvert is director of the Texas Asian-American Redistricting Initiative. She says the Census Bureau requires political entities to provide language assistance whenever more than 10,000 people in a minority group do not speak or read English proficiently.

"It will allow people that are a lot more comfortable in the Chinese language to now see information in their native language. And hopefully, it's going to help them do a better job in terms of voting and participating in the political process."

English, Spanish and Vietnamese are already on the ballot and instructions.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart's office is responsible for adding the language materials. He says because of the short notice, they won't be able to complete all of the documents by this Election Day.

"People probably aren't aware, but there is just literally tons of documents that have to be translated and be prepared. But we're jumping right on top of this, we will be putting together brochures in Chinese. Will also be putting together a sample ballot, even for this election that's coming up."

Stanart says it's too late to add a Chinese version of the ballot to the voting machines. But he plans to ask Harris County Commissioners for additional funds, so he can hire Chinese-speaking employees to assist at several poll locations.

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Laurie Johnson

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Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...