Spanish-language voter pamphlets contain a translation error that could dissuade some people from voting this election.
The Green Party of Washington State found the error in a section describing how people with felony convictions under supervision of the Department of Corrections are unable to vote.
The pamphlet used the term “delito,” which can be translated as “sin,” “offense” or “crime.” To describe a felony crime, the pamphlet should have said “delito grave” to distinguish it from a misdemeanor, which is known as “delito menor.”
The error occurred in the translation of the voter pamphlet, which was freshly translated and published this year, according to the office of Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Some worry that this could prevent Spanish-speaking voters with misdemeanor offenses from voting. Rich Stolz, director of immigrant-rights nonprofit One America, said in a statement that Wyman owes communities of color and Latino voters an apology and clarification.
“We hope that the Secretary will do everything in her office’s power to correct the error,” Stolz said in a statement, adding that Wyman has proposed voter ID laws and has a pattern in her office that is, at best, neglectful.
Wyman is running for re-election against Democrat Tina Podlodowski.
David Ammons, communications director at the Secretary of State’s office, said that the office recently updated its language with a fresh translation, which is how the error occurred.
The office has sent letters out to people who could possibly be affected by the error, a total of 647 people across the state who are under supervision of the Department of Corrections with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offenses. Of those 647, just six people received the pamphlet with the error, according to the Secretary of State.
The office has also corrected the language in the online version of the pamphlet.
“We’re definitely not into suppression of any vote,” Ammons said. “Whether it’s one person or more than that, that’s not acceptable.”
Tim White, an attorney who works with the Green Party, said the state needs to make a number of changes in how it translates and distributes voter information to avoid voter suppression.
In particular, he advocated for side-by-side translations in English and Spanish, from voter pamphlets to ballots. He suggested a ballot that has the fill-in bubbles down the middle of the page with English language on one side and Spanish on the other.
“The gold standard is bilingual, not separate,” he said.
It’s too late for such a robust system during this election cycle, but White said that Wyman can take swift action now to get out the vote among Spanish-speaking voters.
“We need a media blitz out of the Secretary of State’s office in Spanish to let people know that it’s a terrible mistake, apologize and welcome the Latino vote,” he said.