Victory! Khmer Vote-By-Mail Applications

Coronavirus, Voting Rights

Following Community Pressure, Secretary of Commonwealth Sends Out Khmer-Translated Vote-By-Mail Applications

Bowing to public outcry and legal pressure, Secretary of Commonwealth William Galvin has reversed course, mailing out vote-by-mail applications translated into Khmer to voters in Lowell as required by law.  The applications – also in English and Spanish – began arriving to Lowell’s households late this week.

Lawyers for Civil Rights and the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) had faulted the Secretary for failing to include a Khmer translation in his initial mailing of applications last month.  The emergency voting law enacted in July requires the Secretary to follow the Voting Rights Act’s language mandates, including that Khmer translations be provided to voters in Lowell. This week, the Secretary corrected his error, sending a second mailing to Lowell households, this time including a Khmer-translated application.  

“We are pleased that the Secretary has fixed his mistake,” said Sovanna Pouv, Executive Director of CMAA.  “Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Khmer-translated vote-by-mail applications are critical to ensuring equal voting opportunity.”

“In passing the vote-by-mail law, the Legislature recognized that language can be a significant barrier to voting and specifically required the Secretary to follow the Voting Rights Act’s language requirements,” said Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.  “As a result of impressive advocacy by CMAA and others in the community, Khmer-speaking voters in Lowell will now have safe and equal access to the ballot box this Fall.”

Photo credit: Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association