Harris County Offers First-Ever Voter Registrar Training In Vietnamese And Chinese

Harris County is making voter registration more accessible for non-English speakers by providing volunteer deputy voter registrar training in Vietnamese, Chinese and Spanish.

Vietnamese-Americans in Houston learn how to register voters at a Harris County deputy voter registrar training.

Harris County is offering volunteer deputy voter registrar training in Vietnamese and Chinese for the first time ever.

More than 25 people attended the first training in Vietnamese this week to become certified to register voters in the county.

Those deputy registrars will be able to register voters for the upcoming elections on November 5.

“We have a large Vietnamese community and there's a lot of language barriers. To be able to have it in Vietnamese, really helps a great deal to really understand the importance of voter registration,” said Janette Diep, executive director of the Vietnamese-American non-profit Boat People SOS, which hosted the training.

Houston has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the country, with some 91,000 people.

Volunteer deputy voter registrar training is now offered in Chinese and Vietnamese.

Diep said she’s seen how language barriers can get in the way of voter registration.

“A lot of times they [Vietnamese-Americans] get the card in English and they're afraid to fill it out because it might be incorrect and then they don't submit it. With this, when you have someone to assist you and to also hand it in to the registrar's office, means this person's going to be registered and they're going to get a voter card,” said Diep.

The push for training sessions in Vietnamese and Chinese came, in part, from the civic engagement group Houston in Action.

“Earlier this year, Houston in Action members, as part of our Take Action Houston report, identified a gap in training opportunities for non-English speaking volunteer deputy voter registrars,” said Frances Valdez in a written statement.

“Members of the Empowering Constituencies Initiative helped bring voter registration opportunities to Harris County’s Vietnamese and Chinese speaking communities, communities who have the right to vote, but who have, historically, not had the same access as others,” she said.

Community organizer AJ Durani, said the next step is to have registrars start registering voters ahead of the next election.

"We will take volunteer deputy voter registrars and identify locations where community members gather and register voters on a regular basis," said Durani, who is chairman of civic engagement group eMgage.

He said he believes this could be the first-ever voter registrar training in Vietnamese in the state.


Elizabeth Trovall

Elizabeth Trovall

Immigration Reporter

Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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