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Yup’ik Language Assistance Tribal Outreach: Report to the Alaska Division of Elections

Abstract

The Division of Elections contracted with the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Alaska Anchorage to help develop a network of key tribal organization and village representatives in the Bethel census area to work with the division on their Yup’ik language assistance program. The division asked ISER to help them communicate with tribes about the division’s current programs and to document additional ways that the division can improve its language assistance program. The Alaska Division of Elections is required under the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) to provide language assistance to voters in areas where more than 5% of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority and are limited English proficient. In July 2008, a federal court ordered the division to take the following remedial actions, many of which the division had already taken prior to the court order: 1. Provide mandatory poll worker training. 2. Hire a language assistance coordinator fluent in Yup'ik. 3. Recruit bi-lingual poll workers or translators. 4. Provide sample ballots in written Yup'ik. 5. Provide pre-election publicity in Yup'ik. 6. Ensure the accuracy of translations. 7. Provide a Yup'ik glossary of election terms. 8. Submit pre-election and post-election reports. Although the division has a Yup’ik language assistance program and has been addressing the court order, interviews with Bethel census area residents show that some people are unaware of the elements in the division’s language assistance plan. In addition, some Bethel area residents said they feel the election workers and the division should interpret the meaning of the ballot measures and explain the positions of the various candidates—activities that are forbidden by state statute. ISER agreed to help the division address this lack of awareness and the misconceptions about their programs by contacting tribal organizations and inviting them to attend a meeting in Bethel, Alaska, on May 27, 2009. Part I of this report, issued in July 2009, describes ISER’s contacts with tribal organizations and summarizes the comments and feedback from the participants at the election outreach meeting in Bethel. Part II describes ISER’s post-meeting contacts with tribal organizations and meeting participants and summarizes their responses to the post-meeting survey.Alaska Division of ElectionsIntroduction / Part I: Pre-Meeting Comments and Meeting Summary / Part II: Post-Meeting Feedback / Appendix A: ISER Script for Pre-Meeting Contact / Appendix B: ISER Letter of Invitation to Tribal Organizations / Appendix C: ISER Letter of Invitation to PLaintiff Tribral Organizations / Appendix D. List of Participants - Bethel Election Outreach Meeting / Appendix E: Agenda - Bethel Election Outreach Meeting / Appendix F: Pre-Meeting Interview Responses / Appendix G: Post-Meeting Letter to Tribes / Appendix H: Post Meeting Survey / Appendix I: Post-Meeting Interview Summar

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