Arcadia Election Ballots Contain Translation Blunder
By Terry Miller
Arcadia’s nearly 29,000 registered voters received election ballots last week with a crucial blunder in its Chinese-language instructions that could cause some votes to be invalidated at worse and add considerable amount of confusion at best. However, the city is trying to correct the error by mailing out 29,000 postcards detailing the glitch. Additionally, the city has placed ads in this newspaper and others in an effort to allay anxiety. The postcards are at the printers and will be mailed out in due course.
According to Arcadia’s City Clerk, a translation error in Chinese appears on the
Official Ballot and Ballot page in the Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet. 29, 000 registered voters received the error for the General Municipal Election to be held on April 10, 2012.
On the ballot, under the heading of:
For MEMBER of the CITY COUNCIL
Vote for no more than TWO
The correct wording should read in Chinese:
競選市議會議員 最多選 二人
The clerk asks residents to “Please DO NOT vote for more than TWO”
If you voted for 3 candidates and already mailed back your ballot, please
call the City Clerk’s office at 626-574-5455 for a replacement ballot. “ If you voted for 2 or
less candidates, please disregard this notice.”
Questions should be directed to:Office of the City Clerk626-574-5455
Election consultant Martin and Chapman Co., for which Arcadia relies on their translation, prepared the election ballots for Arcadia’s election.
City Manager Don Penman confirmed that the estimated to cost to correct the error could be between $7,000 and $10,000, and that the election consultant will hopefully reimburse the city’s costs as it was ultimately Martin and Chapman Co.’s error.
The mail-in ballots included instructions in four languages, but directed voters in Chinese to select up to three instead of two City Council candidates in the race for two open seats.
Former Mayor John Wuo said he though it was “ very unfortunate” that this happened and feels that “ Voting is a sacred right of a US Citizen” he went on to say that he feels the Ballot should be printed in one language only, English.
“ If you are a naturalized citizen from another country, part of that legal process is to speak and write basic English.” Wuo said. “I think we should consider ballots being printed in English only. However, state law currently dictates otherwise.” he concluded.
The former mayor went on the say that he feels the ballots are very confusing with muitiple languages and many residents are perplexed when they see multiple language instructions.
Candidate Sho Tay doesn’t agree with John Wuo’s point of view. “50% of Arcadia’s voting population is Asian speaking. We need to have translations on the ballot , especially for our elders. We must respect our parents who may not speak or understand English very wel but are eligible to vote.”
Sho Tay was concerened that Arcadia didn’t catch the “easy” mistake in Mandarin. “If we had someone in that dept. who speaks Mandarin, this simply wouldn’t have happened. After all, the city has to approve the ballot BEFORE being sent to consultant Martin and Chapman Co. for printing.”
“My fear is that some may not read the postcards the city is sending out for damage control, nor understand the error and perhaps be even more confused.” Sho Tay said.
Ironically, the city decided a first ever mail in ballot could save money but now looks like it may cost much more than the city bargained for, particularly if the election is close and litigation follows, as some have suggested .
Election ballot errors are by no means unusual. In the primary elections for the Republican presidential nominee there have been countless errors and confusing ballots leading many to call for election reform and at the same time leading potential voters into an abyss.
Arcadia’s situation is indicitive of a larger problem and often from errors come clarification. City leaders hope this is indeed the case in Arcadia.
Ever calm and positive city manager, Don Penman, who recently announced his retirement, was philosphical about the extraordinary challenges his city has had to face during his last few months in office: “First we had the windstorm, then we had to face the fall of redeveoplment funds and now this.”