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City to station Russian and Creole speakers at poll sites in November

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Now you’re speaking their language!

The city will station Russian-speaking translators at more than a dozen polling sites across Southern Brooklyn for the upcoming general election on Nov. 7 as part of a pilot project that could go citywide.

Seniors who hail from the former Soviet Union have long felt disenfranchised when they went to go do their most important civic duty on election day — either because they didn’t know if they were in the right place, or couldn’t even read the ballot — and couldn’t find help in their own language. So this program will be a big help to the large Russian-speaking community in Little Odessa and the surrounding neighborhoods, said Brighton Beach district leader Ari Kagan, who saw the problems first-hand during last month’s primary vote.

“On Sept. 12, I was at many polling sites in my district and outside, it was very bad. I saw many confused seniors, like 91-years-old,” said Kagan, who also speaks Russian. “It will help tremendously, I will guarantee the turnout in the Russian-speaking community will be higher, experience will be better, they will not face so much confusion.”

Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) worked with the Mayor’s office and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D–Bronx) to allocate $350,000 for the program, which will provide enough cash for Russian translators at 15 poll sites in South Brooklyn, plus Haitian-Creole translators at five poll sites in South Brooklyn. The translators will all be stationed outside the polling site on election day and will assist voters in assuring them they are in the right place, or help them interpret ballot instructions, according to a spokesman for City Hall.

The Board of Elections, under federal law, already requires the city to provide Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Bengali translators in districts that meet a certain population thresholds, the spokesman said.

The city will evaluate the project after November, the spokesman said — but with 120,000 Russian speakers and 49,000 Haitian-Creole speakers in the city, it’s crucial that the program expands citywide, said Treyger.

“Recent low voter turnout in the last election is further proof of the need to increase language access at poll sites,” Treyger said. “Voters should not be turned away because no one could tell them if they were at the right poll site or not. I am proud to have advocated for and secured funds for a pilot program to provide interpreters for Russian and Haitian Creole speakers at 20 poll sites in Brooklyn, and hope for a smooth rollout in November.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, October 19, 2017
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Reader feedback

Fanya Vasilevsky from Brighton Beach says:
It is a long overdue decision to finally have Russian language translators at the polling sites. I have been working as a coordinator at the Shore Front for many years, where 90 % of all the voters are the Russian Speakers. I agree with Ari Kogan that the elderly US citizens had not be able to vote because of the language barrier. I command all the government officials for achieving this. Hope, the Russian language translators will be stationed at the all poll sites where Russian population resides.
Oct. 19, 2017, 11:12 am
Ridiculous says:
How about speaking English like everyone else in this country. If you cannot speak English or read and write, how are the voters expected to vote without bias. This is the most ridiculous waste pf $350k tax payer funds that can be used for our deteriorating
Parks and playgrounds in Brighton Beach.
Oct. 19, 2017, 11:25 am
Susan Berkowitz from Midwood says:
To Ridiculous, my grandparents remember that there were translators for them in Yiddish for Jewish voters and Italian translators for Italian voters. Providing translators in Brooklyn is long overdue and worth the cost. I'm sorry for your bigoted attitude.

You should have listened to former President Bush's speech here in NYC today where he decried the bigotry that has been emboldened in our country and yes, he mentioned when it is directed at today's immigrants. I'd appreciate a response not just from you, but from other readers. Thank you.
Oct. 19, 2017, 2:24 pm
Susan Berkowitz from Midwood says:
Also, when immigrants do it to other immigrants. Some Russians in Brighton Beach harass Hispanics who have never bothered them or caused them any problems.
Oct. 19, 2017, 2:26 pm
Susan Berkowitz from Midwood says:
Also, when one immigrant group does it to another as Russians have harassed Hispanics in Brighton Beach.
Oct. 19, 2017, 2:27 pm
mr. parker says:
$350,000 for translators?
To become an American citizen you must have a certain level of fluency in English.
I sympathize with the elderly but maybe the seniors should find a family member or friend who can understand issues and translate for them.
Just because it was done in the past doesn't make it acceptable today.
Oct. 19, 2017, 8:38 pm
Ridiculous says:
Susan,
When your parents emigrated to this country America was a different country. During the industrial revolution, America needed immgriants for work. Immigrants assimilated into American culture by learning how to speak English just like everyone else and became American. Today, immigrants come to this country and speak their native language, and expect the government to provide translations. I’m sorry but $350k is a joke to spend for interpreters who will convince ignorant people to vote for their own kind. That’s not American!
Oct. 20, 2017, 3:18 pm
Olga Korchak from Mill Basin says:
The anti-semite Susan Berkowitz should provide substantiation if she is going to make outlandish and, frankly, silly claims. Does she have video of any of her fictitious allegations? Police records to offer? Any proof other than her Jew-hating imagination?
I didn't think so.
Oct. 21, 2017, 7:37 pm

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