Activists demanding Arabic-language ballots in Dearborn are rebuffed by county clerk

DEARBORN, Mich. – There is a setback in efforts to have ballots printed in Arabic for Dearborn voters and it comes from Kathy Garrett, Wayne County Clerk.

This is a major problem for people in Cherborn, which meets the federal criteria to have ballots in Arabic. The Wayne County clerk said she’s worried the rules won’t be followed, but those pushing to give thousands of residents access to vote say her denial is racially motivated.

There is outrage from activists and voters. Garrett told the secretary of state that the city’s plan to print ballots in Arabic was not following protocol. She said the endorsement did not include details such as language and dialect, even though Arabic, as written, has no dialect.

She wondered if it was legal for the city to change its ballots in the first place. She wrote at one point, “the lack of communication between the city secretary of state’s office and the county clerk is more than negligible.”

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The letter sparked more resistance from activists who had been working for more than a year to get the ballots in Arabic. A petition launched by the Emgage group has already been circulating online for several weeks.

In her letter, Garrett says she is on the side of expanding voting access, but wants to ensure that ballots that are not in English are considered official.

In her response, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson countered by saying that the Clerk’s Office could simply model the translation process already underway at Hamtramck for begalase speakers.

The final deadline for what’s on the ballots is May 10.

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