Where there is diversity of people, there is diversity of language, and Texas is no exception. Houston has become the most diverse city in the entire United States, with Dallas not too far behind. And in our southern border regions like the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, speaking Spanish is just as common as English.
Despite the state’s diversity, voting can be especially complicated if you don’t speak English. But there are laws that protect your right to understand your vote, regardless of what language someone speaks or feels most comfortable in.
Whether it’s your family, a friend, or a loved one, if you know someone who needs to vote and needs language assistance, here’s what you need to know about it both in and out of the polls.
1. All election materials prepared for voters in English must also be provided in Spanish — it’s the law!
Some counties must also provide these materials in other languages, such as Asian or Indigenous American languages, depending on the population.
2. If you can’t read the language that the ballot is written in, you are allowed to bring someone into the polling place to help you understand the ballot!
This person can be a friend, family member, or complete stranger, as long as it’s a person of your choice. The only people who can’t be your voting assistant are your boss, your union representatives, or anyone working on behalf of either of these people.
3. Many counties in Texas are working on ways to help voters who don’t speak English, including having interpreters or interpreting software at the polling place.
If you would like to know more, call your county election officials, or call our hotline (which is, of course, available in many of the languages spoken in our state)!
If you or your family members need language assistance, I encourage you to take advantage of the services your county provides. Know your rights and cast your ballot!
Ash Hall is the digital coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Special thanks to the voting rights team at TCRP for compiling this information.