Brannan Supports Arabic Interpretation Services at Poll Sites

Justin Brannan, with fellow Council member Mark Treyger to his left, announces a bill that would provide Arabic interpretation services at polling sites. (Photo via Justin Brannan/Twitter)

From the steps of City Hall on Nov. 27, City Council member Justin Brennan (District 43 – Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach) announced legislation that would require Arabic interpretation services at poll sites in locations with more than 50 Arabic-speaking eligible voters with limited English-language skills.

In a tweet, Brannan said he was “lucky, proud and honored to represent one of the largest Arabic speaking communities in the entire country right in the heart of my district in Bay Ridge.”

Community organizer Widad Hassan of Yalla Brooklyn, a political club empowering Arab and Muslim voters, explained to Kings County Politics’ Michael Rock what some Arabic-speaking voters encounter at polling places.

“There’s a lot of difficulty. Many can’t read English, so there’s lots of anxiety,” she explained. “They often rely on other community members to inform them how to vote.”

Council member Mark Treyger (District 47 – Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate), who co-sponsored the bill, expressed his support by describing an incident at a poll site that involved an attempt to have Russian speakers arrested. Read more on this at Kings County Politics, as well as remarks from other attendees.

Treyger is also introducing a bill that would expand interpretation services at polling sites to include the rest of the 10 most spoken non-English languages in the city. In addition to Spanish, Chinese, Bengali and Korean, services would be available for speakers of Russian, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Urdu, French and Polish. On Election Day, interpretation services for some of those languages were available at select polling sites but only from a distance.

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