Election Logistics Highlight Unalaska’s Diversity

Photo courtesy of KUCB.org

If you go to vote in today’s primaries, you’ll see signs that say “Bumoto Dito” plastered on the doors of city hall. That’s not the name of a candidate running for elected office. It means “Vote Here” in Tagalog.

For the first time, the city has an official Tagalog interpreter on hand with the rest of the volunteer election crew. City Clerk Elizabeth Masoni says that the interpreter is there to help the Unalaska’s large Filipino population.

“We know that many of our Filipino citizens are also English speakers and usually don’t have a lot of questions. But if you’ve got a question about getting a ballot into the machine, it’s a lot more comfortable if you can have somebody to speak to who understands your language,” says Masoni. “It’s been very smooth and very nice. We’ve had a lot of people really happy.

The staffing change occurred after the federal government conducted a survey of some of Unalaska’s Filipino residents, asking them if they had any difficulty voting in previous elections. While none reported problems, an interpreter was still requested because Filipinos make up nearly 20 percent of the community’s population.

The Tagalog interpreter will be on hand throughout the day to answer any voting questions, along with the rest of the election volunteers. They will keep the city hall polling station open through 8pm. The primary ballot includes one contested race for the U.S. House of Representatives and two uncontested races for the state legislature. There are also two ballot measures: One would increase the state’s property tax exemption from $20,000 to $50,000, and the other would reinstate Alaska’s coastal management program.