Urging the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners to maximize Language Access Services available through the City’s new voting machines.

Urging the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners to maximize Language Access
Services available through the City’s new voting machines.
WHEREAS, All American citizens, regardless of their ethnicities and backgrounds, should be
encouraged to exercise their right to vote; and
WHEREAS, According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, immigration is largely responsible for the
population growth Philadelphia has experienced since 2006. Today, 14% of Philadelphians are
foreign-born, and 23% of Philadelphia residents speak a foreign language at home. China, India,
Vietnam, Haiti, Ukraine, Albania, and Korea are among the top 10 countries of origin of
Philadelphians as of 2017; and
WHEREAS, The National Voting Rights Act requires that any language spoken by at least 5% of
a county’s population or 10,000 or more individuals in a county shall be included in voting
information and services. In accordance with this law, Philadelphia is one of three counties in
Pennsylvania to offer language support services in Spanish due to its sizable Hispanic
population; and
WHEREAS, As of November 2016, more than 140,000 eligible voters in Pennsylvania, most of
whom live in Philadelphia and the greater area, have limited proficiency in English and do not
speak Spanish; and
WHEREAS, An anti-discrimination complaint filed with the Human Relations Commission in
2014 by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Boat People-SOS
of the Delaware Valley, and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania stated
that this voting demographic includes 57% of the City’s foreign-born Asian American
population; and

WHEREAS, The antidiscrimination complaint stated that by not providing adequate language
access services to Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cambodian voters, the City
Commissioners violated the City’s Fair Practices Ordinance; and
WHEREAS, Advocates say that the resources currently available to non-Spanish-speaking voters
with limited proficiency in English do not meet the National Voting Rights Act’s standards of
being reasonable and effective. The City contracts with Language Line, a telephonic
interpretation system that, while available in 240 languages, is not considered by advocates to
provide adequate practical assistance in polling places. The antidiscrimination complaint said
that the Language Line service was not well-advertised and therefore underutilized; and
WHEREAS, The Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners has begun public
demonstrations of the ExpressVote XL voting machines, made by Election Systems and
Software (ES&S), which were selected by the City Commissioners in February after a
procurement process. 3,735 of these new machines will be utilized in the upcoming general
election on November 5, 2019; and
WHEREAS, The ExpressVote XL machines have a digital touch screen and can be programmed
to include audio and visual instructions in multiple languages. According to ES&S, “Individual
jurisdictions determine the offered language translations,” meaning that Philadelphia now has the
ability to offer more languages than English and Spanish directly on the ballot through these new
machines. Budget testimony from the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners stated that
the machines are capable of supporting up to 16 languages. However, only Spanish language
access services have been added to the machines thus far; and
WHEREAS, Maximizing the capacities of the new ExpressVote XL voting machines to provide
language access services will make voting as accessible as possible to all Philadelphians. This
will further reduce barriers to voting participation and make for a more inclusive City and
democracy; now, therefore, be it
the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners to maximize language access services
available through the City’s new voting machines.