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In Spanish-language voters guide, presidential positions in English

The Texas office of the League of Women Voters is distributing 13,500 Spanish language voters guides to libraries, community colleges and schools statewide in advance of the November election, an effort that group leaders hope will inform more voters. Problem is, the section on the presidential candidates is in English.

The state office relied on information on the presidential candidates provided by the national office of the League of Women Voters, which did not prepare a Spanish translation.

But local chapters often put together their own non-partisan voting guides, and in Austin a Spanish-language voters guide produced by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters will include a Spanish-language version of the positions of the presidential candidates.

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Officials with the state chapter say they are putting the Spanish-language information on all presidential candidates on its website. About 2½ pages of the 24-page guide are dedicated to the presidential candidates; the candidates were asked to answer questions such as, “What, if any actions will you support to create a pathway to citizenship?” and “What kinds of policies will you pursue to promote social and racial justice for all Americans?”

“The remedy we came up with was using some information collected (in Spanish) by our sister league, the state league of California,” said Cinde Weatherby, president of the Austin League of Women Voters.

The initial discovery that the presidential candidate positions were in English “was upsetting to us,” she said.

The problem had been a “major headache,” said Elaine Wiant, president of the Texas League of Women Voters, and who helped track down the California version for the Austin chapter’s voting guide.

The state league is also distributing 31,000 English-language voters guides.

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920, shortly before women got the right to vote. Today the organization works to register and educate voters, as well as protect voter rights and reform the campaign finance system.

The national office of the League of Women Voters likewise did not distribute Spanish-language answers from the presidential candidates in 2012 or 2008, said spokeswoman Sarah Courtney.

Alberto Morales, project coordinator with the nonpartisan Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas, which aims to drive up voter turnout in South Texas, said the efforts of organizations like the League of Women Voters were welcome: The Spanish language guide has comprehensive information in Spanish about candidates for Texas Railroad Commission, judgeships, and the Texas Board of Education.

“A lot of organizations like ours are limited in manpower and simply don’t have the resources or personnel to reach and equip all voters,” he said.

Chris Carson, chairwoman of the League of Women Voters Education Fund, said the organization aims “to engage communities of voters who are most often left out of the process — young people, new citizens, lower income Americans and communities of color.”

Early voting begins Oct. 24.

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