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Election day will be here before we know it. Do you have language support in place for voters who are limited English proficiency (LEP)? Translation and interpretation services help you remove language barriers to help LEP voters understand their voting materials and equitably participate in the election process. In addition to increasing voter participation, providing language services improves compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Here’s what you need to know:

Section 203 of the Voting Rights ActVoting Ballot 01

By federal mandate, language services are required throughout the election process, from voter registration to voting. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires covered jurisdictions to translate registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, ballots, and other information related to the electoral process. Covered jurisdictions must also provide bilingual assistance to voters in specific languages.


Which voting jurisdictions are covered?

According to the US Census Bureau: “Language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) require that certain states and political subdivisions provide language assistance during elections for certain language minority groups who are unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.”

Section 203 Graph-3* Statewide coverage can only be triggered by the 5% criteria; the 10,000-person criteria does not apply for statewide coverage. + LEP – limited-English proficient

Which languages are covered under Section 203?

Section 203 protects select language minority groups, including “persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives, or of Spanish heritage.” The US Census Bureau relies on data about race and ethnicity as a "proxy" to identify the protected language groups, as reported by NPR.

Languages-1This means some languages aren’t covered due to differences in classification and categorization. For example:

  • Arabic isn’t covered, as the Census Bureau doesn’t classify it as an Asian language.

  • Haitian Creole isn’t covered because the Census Bureau considers it an Indo-European language, and its speakers do not fall within the protected language minority groups under Section 203.


How can covered jurisdictions comply with Section 203?

The US Department of Justice measures Section 203 compliance by two standards:

  • “Materials and assistance should be provided in a way designed to allow members of applicable language-minority groups to be effectively informed of and participate effectively in voting-connected activities.”

  • Affected jurisdictions should take all reasonable steps to achieve that goal.

A jurisdiction is more likely to achieve compliance if it works with the “cooperation of and to the satisfaction of organizations representing members of the applicable language-minority group.”

Translating written election materials

  • “For written language assistance, jurisdictions need only provide materials in the one dialect most widely used by the jurisdiction’s voting-age citizens who are members of the covered language-minority group.”

Interpretation services for election day

  • “For oral language assistance, the jurisdiction’s obligation is to ascertain the dialects and languages that are commonly used by members of the applicable language-minority group and to provide oral assistance in those dialects and languages.”

LaptopChoose CyraCom to help you prepare for the upcoming election

CyraCom’s high-quality translation services can help you meet Section 203 requirements and support voters who speak languages other than English. Our qualified experts are ready to support you by translating critical voting information into multiple languages and providing interpretation support for election day.

  • Fast, free translation quotes: Email our team at to get started. Our helpful project managers make translation projects simple and stress-free.

  • Cost savings: With low per-word rates and Translation Memory for long-term savings, you’ll maximize your budget for each election.

  • Accurate, high-quality services: We are ISO-accredited to provide translation services and train our employee interpreters to deliver accurate, unbiased communication and excellent customer service.

  • Government contracts: CyraCom has government contracts in place, making it easier to access our interpretation and translation services:


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Lindsay Lawson

Lindsay Lawson

An experienced researcher, writer, and editor on language services-related topics, specializing in interpreting and translation services, how language works.