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The smallest county in Idaho now offers Spanish language assistance to its voters

Sheets of round red, white and blue stickers saying "He Votado Hoy" on them.
Matt Rourke
/
AP
Shown in Spanish are "He Votado Hoy" stickers or "I Voted Today" at a polling place in Philadelphia, Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Located in eastern Idaho, Clark County is getting ready to offer Spanish language voting materials for the first time.

The Federal Voting Rights Act requires translation services for language minorities during elections. Clark County is one of five in Idaho that have to provide non-English speakers with assistance.

According to the 2020 census, 41% of the 790 residents are Hispanic but a large Spanish-speaking population is not the only requirement. The Voting Act says if a state or county has more than five percent of voting age citizens with limited English skills, it has to provide language help.

Other counties may have a bigger percentage of Spanish speakers, but Clark County was the only one to meet the threshold for limited language proficiency.

Deputy Chief Secretary of State Chad Houck said the requirement is based on census data, which does not track citizenship.

“It's a pure mathematical calculation based on how people respond, and has no bearing on whether or not those individuals are registered to vote or not,” he said.

In an email, Clark County Clerk Camille Messick said she doesn’t think they have registered voters who exclusively speak Spanish. The county said it didn’t get any requests for the primaries, but will still have an interpreter available on November 8.

Lincoln County had to provide Spanish language support in the past decade after the 2010 census established it met the Voting Rights Act requirement. In the latest count, they didn’t meet the threshold.

Lincoln County Clerk Cindi Siever said it shared ballot layouts with Clark County and other Spanish resources with Clark County.

“It takes a lot to put together an election,” she said. “And so when you add, I don't know, $1,000-1200, I think, to an election for Spanish material, it's really not that much.”

Clearwater, Idaho, Lewis and Nez Perce counties will also provide translation services in Native languages.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.