Yup'ik voters and Bethel reach deal on interpreters

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The city of Bethel will provide better trained Yup'ik translators at voting polls and translations of voting materials under an agreement with the Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, a city official said.

The two groups, which brought a lawsuit on behalf of Yup'ik speakers, had contended that translators haven't been properly trained and weren't always available during city and state elections.

The deal was announced Monday and means the lawsuit against the city will be dropped. A similar suit brought against the state of Alaska continues and is expected to go to trial in November.

Bethel has made translators available to voters since the 1970s, city clerk Lori Strickler said.

"We've always been providing assistance to the Yup'ik voters here, but we hope that the changes that have been recommended and are to come will be improvements," she said.

Bethel officials has agreed to provide a glossary of election terms and sample ballots and public notice of election announcements in Yup'ik. The city must also report to the federal government about its efforts.

The changes will take effect by the next city election in October. Printing the additional sample ballots will add only minimal costs for the city, Strickler said.

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