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Dearborn, Hamtramck will offer Arabic language ballots in August primary

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Arabic language ballots will be available in Dearborn and Hamtramck for the August primary.

Sample ballots have been offered in Arabic in Michigan, but Arabic language ballots are new.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires translated voting ballots, but not in Arabic or Haitian Creole.

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act says that the protected language minority groups are
"persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage."

After encouragement from community members, Dearborn and Hamtramck’s city councils passed resolutions earlier this year to make Arabic language ballots available for their residents.

In Dearborn, the resolution requires election materials in English and any language spoken by at least 10,000 or 5% of Dearborn's residents.

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said this is crucial for our democracy.

"Voters will be able to go to the ballot box and understand what’s on the ballot in the language they are most comfortable with, be it English or Arabic, and be able to cast a vote and really try to make a difference," he said.

According to Census data, about half of all Dearborn residents speak a language other than English at home.

Hammoud believes this will get more people voting in Dearborn.

"This is a historic moment not only for our city but for our democracy, something that will help ensure that we can increase the amount of people who participate. Because ultimately a participatory democracy is one that is thriving," he said.

The ballots will be available for absentee voting as well as at polling locations on Election Day.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.