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Friday, April 19, 2024

Yolo County hosts voter education workshops in preparation for the presidential primary election

The Zoom workshops were an attempt to reach out to voters with disabilities and limited English proficiency

 

By EMMA CONDIT city@theaggie.org

 

From Feb. 5 to 8, Yolo County hosted voter education and outreach workshops via Zoom to prepare voters for the presidential primary election, which ends on March 5. These workshops were held in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian and American Sign Language (ASL) and aimed to improve voter literacy in populations with accessibility barriers, like people with disabilities and non-English speakers. 

Jesse Salinas, the chief elections official for the Yolo County Department of Assessor, Clerk-Recorder and Elections (ACE), said that these workshops are required by state law and cater to the specific linguistic needs of Yolo County. 

“By state laws, we’re required to do these workshops,” Salinas said. “[But] we try to go above and beyond. We are required to do sessions in Chinese, Korean, Punjabi and Spanish, but we have included the Russian language. We know in West Sacramento there’s a large Russian population, and we want to make voting accessible.” 

Yolo County is a Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) county. This program, established by SB 450 in 2016, allows counties to have more control over their elections and provides greater voting flexibility. For instance, Yolo County, by opting into this plan, has made vote-by-mail more accessible, increased the number of ballot drop-off sites and streamlined voting technology. 

As laid out in the most recent VCA Election Administration Plan, Yolo County will continue its education and outreach efforts, key components of which are the online educational workshops. The county has held similar workshops twice in the past and hopes to continue holding them in the future. 

Armando Salud, Deputy of Elections in Yolo County, oversees all aspects of election management. Salud explained the importance of these workshops.

“Participants stand to gain valuable insights and resources from these meetings,” Salud said via email. “They include information on vote-by-mail, vote centers and ballot drop boxes. The workshops offer information on translated copies of the official ballot for reference, ensuring accessibility for non-English speakers. […] Attendees gain awareness of voter rights and resources available to address any issues or concerns they may encounter during the voting process.” 

These workshops were targeted towards parts of Yolo County with high rates of limited English proficiency. For instance, limited English proficiency in parts of Woodland ranges from 18 to 26 percent of the population, compared to only four to nine percent in Davis. These workshops, however, have extremely low attendance. 

“The amount of people we aim to reach depends on how many people show up,” Salinas said. “We started doing these workshops in 2021, and we only had a handful of people show up. We’re very limited in the number of people we can actually reach.” 

Salinas explained that they have tried to promote these workshops to the best of their ability, but few people usually attend. The Aggie attended this year’s first Spanish-English voter workshop on Monday, Feb. 5; there were no other participants. 

Yolo County voter turnout rates have remained fairly stable in the last 10 years. In the general election in Nov. 2022, Yolo’s voter turnout was around 57% of registered voters, which is similar to its previous election turnout. These rates are also on par with the rest of California, whose turnout of registered voters rarely exceeds 67%.

It is unclear whether low attendance in these workshops is due to lack of interest, accessibility, adequate promotion or need. Regardless, Salud explained that Yolo County has made strides in maintaining voting accessibility.  

“Yolo County’s voter engagement efforts have demonstrated a commitment to fostering a county wide level of participation,” Salud said. “From working with our voter accessibility advisory committee and language advisory committee to the various community-based organizations such as religious groups, language groups and government organizations Yolo County is committed to get involved and be involved.”

 

For more information about upcoming elections and to register to vote, visit https://www.yoloelections.org/

 

Written By: Emma Condit city@theaggie.org

 

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