Photo: Katy Warner/Flickr
Berks County administered Spanish language voter info that was wrong. Photo: Katy Warner/Flickr

On Election Day, Berks County still scrambles to correct error on Spanish-language voter info

Election materials sent in the last weeks of October had the incorrect return date for mail-in ballots.


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Groups mobilizing Latino voters want election officials in Berks County, Pennsylvania, to provide a list of residents who were sent instructions in Spanish with the wrong date to hand in mail-in ballots.

Diana Robinson, civic engagement director for Make the Road Pennsylvania, told NBC News that the group has been rushing to contact people who have have received Spanish-language instructions that say the deadline to return ballots is Nov. 18 — more than two weeks after the Tuesday (Nov. 2) election, which is also the deadline for sending mail-in votes.

As of Monday, Nov. 1, Make the Road PA was able to get in touch with 1,100 people that received the incorrect information. The instructions accompanied 17,000 mail-in ballots. 

“We have been texting and calling people to give them the right information. We’ve been knocking on doors in Berks County about this erroneous information,” Robinson said. 

Other groups were also scrambling to inform voters, using social media and gatherings with members and the community, and holding a press conference. 

“It doesn’t matter how many folks were sent the incorrect information,” Guzman said, pointing out that races could be decided by just a handful of votes. “Even if one person was disenfranchised because they received the incorrect information — that’s one person too many.”. 

The county sent a follow-up letter. The mistake was discovered on Oct. 20 by poll workers, according to the Reading Eagle. The county also sent out a letter on Oct. 28 to 800 poll workers that also had the election date wrong — Nov. 3 instead of Nov. 2. — the newspaper reported.

This error is amplified by problems the groups encountered last year, including long lines at polling stations in majority Latino communities, lack of translators at polls and on voter hotlines, and a clear inability of poll workers to handle Spanish-language last names, Robinson said. 

Robinson said the ACLU of Pennsylvania requested that the county solicitor provide a list of voters impacted by the mistake. And they also sent a letter to Berks County commissioners to publicize their plan for contacting voters. 

County officials said the error was unintentional, explaining in a statement last week that the election date was not updated after they copied and pasted Spanish-language instructions for a May 18 election. 

“The county felt it was important to send a letter recognizing the error and emphasizing the correct date to ALL 17,000 voters who received the incorrect instructions, regardless of their primary language or the type of ballot they received. That letter was sent out last week," county officials said.

The county also said it was collaborating with the Daniel Torres Hispanic Center, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino affairs, the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce and radio stations to get out the correct information on the election date. 

Despite this, Robinson takes issue with the fact that on the flip side of the instructions, the English information was correct. 

“Why was the English side correct and the Spanish not?” Robinson asked. “The Latino community feels like an afterthought.”

The Latino population in Pennsylvania grew to 1.05 million people, according to the U.S. Census. Berks County saw the second-highest growth rate in the state of Latinos or Hispanics, with the number rising to 99,550 over the past decade.


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