Posted by Guest on July 17, 2019 in Blog

In May, the state of New Jersey took a monumental step toward expanding ballot access within the Arab American community. For the first time in New Jersey, voter registration forms are available in Arabic. While certain municipalities around the country offer Arabic voter registration forms, New Jersey is the first state in the nation to release them statewide.

The Palestinian American Community Center’s Civic Engagement Team collaborated closely with state and local offices, including the New Jersey Division of Elections, to translate the voter registration form. As a result of their tireless advocacy, over 67,000 Arabic speaking New Jersey residents will be able to register in their native language ahead of 2019 state elections and the 2020 presidential election. Arab American Mayor of Paterson, NJ Andre Sayegh declared, "Now there are no more obstacles, no more impediments. We are going to make this accessible to people who speak Arabic and who primarily read Arabic. We're proud to say that we are expanding the voter registration process."

The final step in this process is to have residents and organizations in every New Jersey county contact their County Election Official to ask them to submit an official request to the state’s Secretary of State asking for their county office’s address to be listed on the Arabic voter registration form. By doing so, the Arabic form will be posted online under their county name, and their county voters will be able to download the properly addressed form for easy submission. Once this step is complete, Arabic voter registration forms will be easily accessible in every corner of New Jersey. If you are a resident or organization, contact* your County Election Official today to tell them you want Arabic voter registration forms for your county.

The demand for governmental forms in Arabic, especially census and voter registration forms, is growing because at least 1.2 million people speak Arabic nationwide. The 2020 Census will be the first census to allow responses to the questionnaire online or over the phone in Arabic. US Census Bureau glossaries and other information are also currently available in Arabic to aid Arabic speakers and readers with completing the census.

There is still progress to be made before ballots are accessible to the majority of Arabic speakers and readers in the country. The eleven states with the largest Arab American populations do not offer statewide voter registration forms in Arabic. Furthermore, very few jurisdictions provide language assistance at the polls, such as Arabic speaking translators or ballots in Arabic. Even conducting a Google search for election resources in Arabic yields very little readily available information.

Overall, states and municipalities with high Arab American populations must be more inclusive of this significant part of their electorate. States should follow the lead of New Jersey and aid more people in exercising their right to vote. When more people can vote, more voices are heard, and we strengthen our democracy as a whole. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, “Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process.”


*If you would like assistance contacting your Election Official, drafting a request statement, or anything else related to Arabic voter registration forms, please contact National Field Coordinator Haley Arata at harata@aaiusa.org.


 This blog is authored by Maya Chamra, an AAIF Summer 2019 Field Intern.