Live in Oregon? You can now register to vote in 6 different languages
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Reflecting increasing diversity in Oregon, voter registration forms have been expanded to six languages, including Somali, a language from one of the nations targeted by the Trump administration's travel ban.
The Elections Division made the announcement on Twitter, using letters and characters from the six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali and Russian.
Musse Olol, president of the Somali American Council Of Oregon, took the announcement as a rebuttal of President Trump's travel ban, which targets refugees from 11 mostly Muslim countries, including Somalia.
"It's how you want to respond, including the language of people he had bad names for and that he put on the banned list," Olol, who has lived in Oregon for 36 years, said in a telephone interview.
The development shows how much Oregon's population is changing. Schools in Salem that used to have almost all-white student bodies three decades ago are now filled with Latino students, Pacific islanders and even some refugees from East Africa.
Today, some 10 percent of all Oregon residents are foreign-born, and more than 12 percent are U.S.-born with at least one immigrant parent, according to the American Immigration Council.
Oregon has long been primarily white. Its constitution even prohibited black people from residing in the state, a clause that remained until 1927.
Oregon's population of people of color has grown by 15 percent since 2010, though the state ranks 32nd in the nation in diversity, according to the Oregon Employment Department.
The voter registration forms are offered in the six languages both online and on paper, the Oregon elections division said in its tweet.
Users of the secretary of state's web site can now click on one of those languages, which opens a page in that language listing eligibility requirements — being a U.S. citizen at least 17 years of age and a resident of Oregon. A link is provided to register in the six languages if the requirements are met.
There was no indication of plans to offer ballots or election materials in additional languages. Officials at the elections division and its parent agency, the secretary of state's office, did not respond to requests for comment. The registration forms had previously been in English and Spanish, and the other four languages were added for the first time.
The move "represents inclusiveness of America today," Olol said over the phone from Portland, which has become a magnet for Somali immigrants. He said older immigrants who have a tougher time learning English will especially benefit.
The elections division of Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland, said most of the requests for language assistance before the November 2016 election came from Spanish speakers, followed by the deaf and then by Somali speakers.
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