Spanish Speakers Volunteer
for elección Day 2006
such as “ballot question” and “registered
voter” are not typically covered in Spanish classes
at Smith, so instructor Juan Pablo Jimenez provided a primer
on those words and other election terminology three days before
voters went to the polls for this year's mid-term elections.
His audience: More than two dozen
Spanish-speaking Smith students who volunteered to serve as
interpreters today at polling locations in the nearby city
By the time Jimenez and faculty
member Reyes Lazaro gathered the students together, they had
received the city’s approval to waive the residency
requirement for poll workers.
“Everyone feels committed.
We feel we have a responsibility as an educational institution
to raise our voices and contribute when we are needed,”
said Lazaro, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese.
“It’s an engagement with the community where everyone
Students planned to spend today
at polling locations scattered throughout the city of about
152,000—27.7 percent of which is Spanish-speaking. Some
students signed up to arrive at 6:30 a.m. and leave when the
polls close at 8 p.m., while others committed to work half
Jimenez learned of the need for
bilingual poll workers through the news about a recent lawsuit
filed against the City of Springfield by the U.S. government,
alleging the city failed to provide bilingual assistance to
Spanish-speaking voters with limited proficiency in English.
The city and federal government
later agreed to a settlement requiring more Spanish language
signs and notices in newspapers and radio prior to every election,
and at least one bilingual poll official in nearly every polling
location. This year, Smith students filled 20 of the required
95 bilingual poll official spots.