With the November general election approaching, King County is working in collaboration with Clear Channel Outdoor to provide emerging communities in King County with visible reminders to vote by November 4.
Seven electronic billboards are being used in an effort to target communities with significant and growing diversity. The billboards inform readers about the general election through seven highly-visible digital rotating ads in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Clear Channel Outdoor donated the billboards following conversations initiated by Metropolitan King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski.
“The foundation of our democracy is the right to vote,” Dembowski said in a statement. “As King County’s population of limited English speaking citizens grows, we must ensure that they are able to exercise that right. King County can and should do more to serve the needs of our burgeoning Limited English Proficiency (LEP) citizens, and this partnership is a great step in the right direction.”
The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs also partnered to support the billboards, which feature messages from poet and vocalist Hollis Wong-Wear, jazz trumpeter Cuong Vu, and martial artist Doan Dinh.
“Washington’s Secretary of State has predicted only a 62 percent turnout in the November election. As one of the fastest growing populations in the state and nation, it’s crucial that Asian Pacific Americans make their voices heard in every election,” said Michael Itti, Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. “We applaud this partnership to increase voter participation among Vietnamese and Chinese Americans. We look forward to future efforts to promote civic engagement among our many diverse communities in the state of Washington.”
King County Elections provides bilingual materials in Chinese and Vietnamese to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions provide language assistance to voters if more than 10,000 members or 5 percent of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority group who do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.”
“Translated ballots and election materials, while a big step forward, alone do not address the barriers many non-English speaking citizens experience when it comes to voting and elections,” said James Hong, Director of Operations of the Vietnamese Friendship Association. “A healthy democracy requires both informed and engaged citizens, which is why it’s important that King County is proactive in connecting with the Vietnamese, and other refugee and immigrant, communities. This is a big step forward and I hope that our leaders continue to promote a more diverse and inclusive government.”
King County is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, with a growing population of individuals who speak a language other than English. According to 2010 Census, King County has 38,726 Vietnamese individuals, increasing 40.9 percent since the 2000 Census, and 63,781 Chinese individuals, increasing 52.1 percent since the 2000 Census. Other growing and common languages spoken in King County include Spanish, Russian, Somali, Korean, Ukrainian, Amharic, and Punjabi.