Dearborn needs Arabic election materials, Arab-American advocates say


On the last day of the election, Nada El-Hatooni was at a polling station in Dearborn Heights when she noticed a Lebanese woman sitting on a ledge that reminded her of her grandmother.

“I never leave my house,” she recalls telling him. “I am vulnerable to COVID. I just left [home] just to vote.

The woman was getting ready to leave, El-Hatooni said, when she sat down next to her and helped her complete the form, which was only available in English. She said the woman could not have voted without her.

The incident happened in Dearborn Heights, but El-Hatooni, who is the executive director of Emgage Michigan, a Muslim and Arab-American rights organization, said some of her colleagues saw voters stand by. debate registration forms in English only in the city of Cherborn.

“This is a form of voter suppression,” she said, noting that about half of Dearborn’s population is Arab-American and many speak only Arabic.

Abed Ayoub is a member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He said Dearborn Town Clerk George Darany did not respond to requests for translation of election materials.

“All we ask is do your job, translate the material. Now it took members, community members to email it. It took our organization to get involved in it. get a simple translation of the postal ballot, ”Ayoub said.

“I’m not saying he’s racist, but what I’m saying is that your policies have an impact [disparate] impact on American Arabs and he must understand that. So we need to know what his intention is, why he is not following up on these requests. “

Darany told Ayoub in an email shared with Michigan Radio that he felt “the need for electoral information in Arabic is not widespread.”

“My office was only recently contacted by a few residents requesting that election materials be written in Arabic,” he wrote. “I am very surprised that residents contact your office in DC before calling their

Clerk’s office in Dearborn. In my mind, this means that the need for electoral information in Arabic is not widespread. If that was the case, we certainly would have heard more about it with just three weeks to go to primary. ”

He said his office is working on developing sample Arabic ballots that will be posted on the City of Dearborn website and offered to polling stations on election day. Arabic speaking election officers are assigned to polling stations as needed. Darany also said that Arabic speaking election officials will be assigned to voting sites as needed.

The town of Dearborn recently added a registration form for absent voters in Arabic. The city clerk did not respond to a request for comment from Michigan Radio. He is seeking re-election in an undisputed race.

Seven candidates are vying for the mayor’s primary in August, including a few who are vying for the title of the city’s first mayor of Arab origin.

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