Arabic language

Michigan City’s Arabic Ballots Have Error

DEARBORN, MI. — Arabic-language ballots printed in Dearborn for the November election were issued with an error, and all voters who have the ballots translated or who have requested them are being notified, City Clerk George Darany said.

The error appears in the portion of the ballot listing the Michigan Supreme Court nominees, Darany said in a press release. The error affected 34 Dearborn voters who requested Arabic-language ballots last Thursday, Darany said.

The Arabic-language ballot papers incorrectly stated that voters should choose “no more than one” candidate. He should have ordered voters to choose “no more than two”. There are two vacancies on the state Supreme Court.

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Who is responsible for the voting error?

In an email to city council members obtained by Free Press, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, Darany said a language access commission appointed by Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and the city council earlier this year was responsible. of the error, adding that they were under enormous pressure. complete the translation in time for the November elections. Darany also complained that his earlier warnings that the city needed more time to implement Arabic-language polls had gone unheeded.

Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News and a member of the city’s three-volunteer commission, said Monday night that he and others from his Dearborn newspaper translated and reviewed the final ballot before that it is printed by Dominion free of charge. Towards the city.

The city’s statement, released Thursday, did not say who made the mistake or who did the translation of the ballots.

Siblani said the other two members, Kassem Doghman and Ali Ajami, were not involved in this translation.

“There is no excuse for the mistake,” Siblani said. “And nobody blames it on anybody else. But the system itself is very complicated.”

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What is the process?

The process begins with Wayne County giving the city clerk an Excel spreadsheet with different sections of the ballot, Siblani said. The clerk then gave it to the Arab American News for translation.

The Arab American News then translated the various parts of the ballots and returned them to the clerk. The clerk then sent it to the county and the county gave it to Dominion for printing, Siblani said. It was returned to Siblani for proofreading and confirmation of its accuracy. He said they only had about two days to check the ballots.

Dearborn City Clerk George Darany speaks during the City Council meeting at Dearborn City Hall on July 13, 2021.

Siblani said he was made aware of the error on the ballot when someone contacted him. He said he quickly alerted the clerk and worked with them to alert affected voters.

“Upon learning of the error, our office immediately notified the Michigan State Elections Office and determined the number of absentee voters who needed to be notified,” Darany said in a statement.

How many incorrect ballots were returned?

Darany said his office conducted “a complete and accurate count of Arabic mail-in ballots”, determining that 34 Arabic mail-in ballots were mailed out and, of those, 11 were completed and returned. at the clerk’s office on Thursday evening. There are 23 outstanding Arab mail-in ballots that have yet to be returned, Darany said.

The city contacted all 34 voters, Darany said. He said the mayor’s office helped them provide interpreters when contacting voters.

How hard is it to get a non-English ballot?

Unlike other states, Michigan does not have many municipalities offering non-English language ballots. The US government has certain guidelines that must be met before such ballots can be used. The decision to have Arabic-language ballots was initially pushed back by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett and others.

Dearborn is 47% Arab-American, the highest percentage among cities in the United States, according to census data.

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Earlier this year, the Dearborn City Council approved three resolutions calling for Arabic-language ballots. At the time, Darany expressed concern about doing so in time for the 2022 election, saying it would require time and manpower the city might not have. Garrett also initially expressed concern about the ballots, wondering if there was a legal basis for having them. She then backed the ballots.

Voting in Arabic in a Dearborn neighborhood for the August 2, 2022 primary.

Darany reiterated his earlier concerns in his email to city council members last week, telling them of the voting error.

“The state, county and my office warned, from day one, that to ensure a smooth and accurate process, at least a year was needed to add another language ballot to an election,” Darany wrote in his e -mail. “This warning has proven to be accurate.”

Have more voters been affected?

It’s unclear whether the city has found any additional affected voters since Thursday. Darany did not respond to an email from Free Press requesting updated numbers.

Earlier this year, the city of Dearborn had a contract with Global Interpreting Services of Clinton Township to translate ballots into Arabic in the August primary. This translation was revised and corrected by the three-member commission of which Siblani was a member.

But Global did not have a contract for the November election and was not involved in the final translations, World President Dawn Flanigan told the Free Press on Sunday.

What will happen in the next elections?

Darany said the city is seeking guidance from the state election office.

In accordance with Michigan State Elections Office guidelines, election officials have been instructed to provide users of Arabic ballots, whether during early or absentee voting or on Election Day, with a written statement explaining the error, Darany said in the city statement.

“It is important to note that the Arab ballots have been tested in accordance with election protocols, and the ballots can accurately register up to two selections in the relevant section.”

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Darany said “these newsletters have been carefully reviewed by a very selective translation committee. However, errors can still occur.”

Darany added that city officials regret the error, but are “committed to working closely with all county and state election officials to ensure a fair and transparent resolution.”

What did the Michigan Secretary of State say?

Aneta Kiersnowski Crisp, press secretary to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, told the Free Press on Monday, “The Elections Office has provided guidance to the Clerk’s Office to ensure that all Dearborn voters are informed and in able to vote for their favorite candidates.”

In July, weeks before the August primary, Benson touted the ballots as the first time Michigan would have them in the Arabic language.

“At a time when there are so many efforts to divide and discourage citizen engagement, it is inspiring to see the leaders of Dearborn, Hamtramck and Wayne County come together to show that government can meet the needs of citizens and produce results,” Benson said.

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or Twitter @nwarikoo.