Los Angeles County officials and advocates for immigrant communities are hoping a recent change in state law will help them recruit more bilingual poll workers for the upcoming primary election.
The newly enacted law allows permanent legal residents — commonly known as green-card holders — to staff the polls on June 3, even though they can't vote themselves.
"I can't overemphasize the importance of having bilingual poll workers, having bilingual assistance at the polls," said Deanna Kitamura, senior staff attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.
In L.A. County, with its sizable immigrant population, many potential voters are not fluent in English. And for green-card holders, Kitamura said, working the polls "provides them a glimpse of U.S. democracy."
The county is still seeking about 2,500 poll workers in all, including more than 600 bilingual volunteers.
Efrain Escobedo, governmental and legislative affairs manager for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, said the county expects to have enough Spanish-speakers to man nearly every polling site but needs more poll workers who speak Asian languages, particularly Korean and Chinese.
The county is also seeking more Vietnamese and Tagalog speakers to staff polls throughout the county, as well as Russian speakers in West Hollywood, Farsi speakers in Beverly Hills and Armenian speakers in Glendale.
Escobedo said the registrar's office has been working with local immigrants' advocacy groups to reach out to potential poll workers at naturalization ceremonies and citizenship classes.
This year, the county will also have centralized voter information kiosks at every polling site with information in 10 languages.
Monday is the last day to register to vote in the primary election, which includes local races for county supervisor, sheriff and assessor as well as two state ballot measures and races for governor, secretary of state and other statewide offices, and for all of the state's 53 seats in the House of Representatives, all 80 in the Assembly and half of those in the 40-member state Senate.
There's also a mayoral runoff in Long Beach, a special election to fill a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and numerous races for Superior Court judges.
Voter turnout is typically low in non-presidential primary elections, but Escobedo said officials are hoping that California's relatively new top-two primary system — which allows independent voters to cast ballots in primaries — will boost turnout.