Activists asking for Arabic-language voting ballots in Dearborn face pushback from county clerk

Activists concerned pushback is racially motivated

There's new push-back in the efforts to get ballots printed in Arabic for Dearborn voters. And this time, it's coming from Wayne County Clerk Kathy Garrett.

DEARBORN, Mich. – There is pushback in the efforts to get ballots printed in Arabic for Dearborn voters and it’s coming from Wayne County Clerk Kathy Garrett.

It’s a major issue for people in Dearborn, which meets federal criteria to have ballots in Arabic. The Wayne County Clerk said she’s worried the rules weren’t followed, but those pushing to give thousands of residents access to the vote say her pushback is racially motivated.

There is outrage from activists and voters. Garrett told the Secretary of State the city’s plan to print ballots in Arabic didn’t follow protocol. She said the approval didn’t include specifics like language and dialect, even though Arabic, as written, has no dialect.

She questioned whether 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 secretary of state’s office the city and the county clerk is beyond negligible.”

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

In her letter, Garrett does say she’s on the side of expanding access to voting but wants to make sure ballots that aren’t in English are considered official.

In her response, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson pushed back saying the clerk’s office could just model the translation process already underway in Hamtramck for Begalase speakers.

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

Read: Civil rights advocates ask city of Dearborn for Arabic-language voting ballots


About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.