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Escambia Elections Officials Seekng Spanish-Speakers

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Elections officials in Northwest Florida are looking for a little extra help this election cycle, starting with the March 17 presidential primary.

¿Hablas español? ¡Entonces la Oficina Electoral del Condado de Escambia te necesita!

Translation: Do you speak Spanish? Then the Escambia County Elections Office needs you.

“What that does for us, is at least gets us started with having some bilingual workers; and it sets the stage for us moving forward because we still have two more elections in 2020,” said Sonya Daniel, Escambia County’s deputy elections supervisor.

A Tallahassee federal judge two years ago ordered elections offices in 32 Florida counties — including Escambia and Santa Rosa — must provide Spanish-language sample ballots for the 2020 election cycle. The potential class-action lawsuit was filed by a coalition of groups, representing about 30,000 Puerto Ricans,  who are American citizens, in the counties.

In the Escambia office, Daniel says the bilingual recruiting began last year.

“And we do that in an odd-numbered year and a year where we don’t have elections,” Daniel said. “We started at that point rebuilding, doing that recruitment, and specifically asking for those folks that would be bilingual. Because we knew that we were under this federal injunction.”

When the calendar turned to 2020, Daniels says they reached out to the public in the hunt for Spanish-speaking poll workers and phone bank volunteers. 

“We did some advertisements with La Costa Latina [newspaper]; we reached out to the Diplomacy Council,” Daniel said. “It’s kind of like a snowball, it’s just kind of gained some momentum.”

While they’re completely staffed for this month’s primary, the process will begin at square-one for staffing the Aug. 18 state and local primary. The process will be repeated for the Nov. 3 general election. Everyone, says Daniel, must undergo training prior to all three. Areas include voter check-in, ballot handling, voting machines, and tabulation among other duties.

“On primary day they’re assigned based on precincts that have the highest number of self-identified Hispanic voters,” Daniel said. “For example, Precinct 91 is on the high end. So they will have a bilingual poll worker at Precinct 91.”

Poll workers get a $130 stipend for the day, while phone bank volunteers are unpaid. If you missed out on working the March primary, Daniel says the door’s open for the other two elections.

“We never stop recruiting,” said Daniel. “So if there’s someone who says, ‘yes, I’m bilingual and oh, yes I’d be interested in working the polls’ they can go ahead and submit an application now for being trained and being appointed for the August election. And then ultimately, in the pool for the November election.”

Another proactive move by the Escambia elections office is the hiring of a bilingual employee to work full-time.

“We’re just trying to be as diverse as we can, all the way around the edges from the polling place to the office; to be able to accommodate folks,” said Daniel.

More information is available at www.escambiavotes.com.