These days it may be easier to access multiple sources of information than ever before, but providing trustworthy information, to an ever-growing and increasingly diverse population, is as challenging as ever.
The internet is our go-to source to find important instructions, deadlines and news about voting and elections, but misinformation and disinformation make it difficult to ensure what we’re reading is accurate. Other voters—or would-be voters—face language barriers that prevent them from participating in our elections process.
The Arapahoe County Elections division is tasked with making elections accessible to all Arapahoe County citizens, and we’ve taken steps this election season to make it easier for voters to get reliable information in a language they can understand.
It’s a fact that misinformation (false or misleading information shared intentionally or unintentionally), disinformation (false information shared explicitly to deceive others) and malinformation (false narratives built around a grain of truth and spread with malicious intent) are being posted across the internet to undermine faith in our elections. To help residents identify and counter these threats to our democracy, our office added a special webpage on fighting misinformation to our elections transparency portal.
The page details how to analyze what we read online and recognize bad information when we see it. It also provides steps anyone can take to help stop the spread of mis-, dis- and malinformation, whether it was shared on social media by bad actors—or an unwitting relative. You can also find links to other trusted sources of information, like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s “Rumor Control” page.
It’s important (and invigorating) to note that other counties and agencies in Colorado are making similar resources available, including our neighbors in Adams and Douglas counties, as well as our partners at Arapahoe Libraries. A united approach is necessary to share good information and call out the bad, but to win the fight we also need boots on the ground.
You can do your part by using the resources above to learn how to spot false or misleading claims. Be aware that it’s out there, call it out when you see it (especially if it’s shared by a friend or family member) and learn how the process actually works so you can rule out falsehoods on the spot.
Another initiative we’ve taken to expand access to the ballot box is creating voter fact sheets in the top five languages spoken in Arapahoe County. These forms, available in Amharic, English, Korean, Russian and Spanish, provide all the steps necessary for a voter to register, cast a ballot and track their ballot.
As we have in past elections, we also offer language interpretation services via telephone on our voter hotline and at all Voter Service and Polling Centers, assisting voters in more than 100 languages to register and vote. Spanish-language sample ballots are available online and at vote centers, allowing Spanish-speaking voters to review and better comprehend the often-confusing language on their mail ballot, or when they vote in person.
Again, these efforts need your help to succeed. Most of us know people in our community who aren’t native English speakers. We can do our part by telling them about these resources and pointing them to ArapahoeVotes.com, our hotline and vote centers.
Democracy works best when everyone has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard. By providing trustworthy, accurate information about our elections, in a format and language voters and potential voters can understand, we continue to strive toward that objective.
With your help, it’s a goal within reach.
Joan Lopez is the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder