Chicago election ballots in Hindi

February 21, 2012

(WBEZ/Dulce M. Mora)
Hindi included in Chicago's election signage.

Voting ballots in Chicago will be printed in one more language starting with March’s primary election. Under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, certain minority groups must have access to ballots and voter assistance in their language.

Chicago and Cook County were informed last year that based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian-Indian voters in the area fall into that category. Chicago already provides ballots and voter materials and assistance in Spanish and Chinese.

In fulfilling that mandate, the Chicago Election Board decided to use Hindi as the additional language.

"We had to come to one language that we would use for our voting equipment," said Kelly Bateman, Assistant Executive Director of the Chicago Election Board.

The option of voting in Hindi will be available citywide on touchscreen voting equipment and on paper ballots in 36 precincts. Voting assistance at those targeted precincts and on the election board's website will be available in two other Indian languages, Gujarati and Urdu.

For election officials and community organizationa the challenge now is finding poll workers that speak Hindi, Urdu or Gujarati. Another challenge is encouraging voter registration and turnout within this community.

"Just because this language assistance is there doesn’t mean that everyone knows about it or uses it," said Ami Gandhi, Executive Director of the South Asian American Policy and Research Institute.