Testing the Fidelity of English-Spanish Translations in Election Materials
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Undergraduate Research Awards, 2017. This paper was originally prepared for Course POLI 420 (Fall 2016): Election Systems, given by Professor Byrne, Michael, Department of Psychology and Political Science.
The purpose of this research is to identify and test inconsistencies in language usage and meaning as they may appear in translated election material. Following amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the production of minority language election material became a federal requirement without clearcut federal oversight. Utilizing a 2 (Direction: Spanish-to-English or English-to-Spanish) x 2 (Formality: if the language was expected to be formal “voting language” or casual “everyday language”) Between study we sought to assess the quality of these translations. We analyze significant and recurring words used in ballots from Ballotpedia’s 2015 list of “Notable local measures” and their translations as provided by LA County’s Spanish Translation Glossary. While many of the words tested did not have a main effect of Direction or Formality, some words tested demonstrate deficiencies in translation or word usage that could jeopardize the fidelity of intended meaning. We examine these results alongside other important research, primarily concerning the use of plain-language on ballots. This paper encourages further study into the words chosen for ballots and the potential for non-American translations and computer learning programs to help resolve these issues moving forward.