Campaigning to a multilingual electorate is not unique to politicians in the United States, though the money that is spent targeting specific language groups – particularly Spanish-speakers – might be unparalleled.
The Washington Post reported that Democratic Super PAC groups have just launched a combined $4 million in Spanish ad campaigns. On the Republican side, Reuters reports $7 million in recent ad spending, including a Spanish-language ad released in response to the President’s recent executive order on immigration.
Translations in elections are so important, not only to foster proper communication and inclusion of all citizens, but also because incorrect translations lead to more than just misunderstandings.
The small town of Arcadia, CA made news last Spring when a ballot for city council contained a translation error, asking voters in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to vote for “no more than two” candidates, while the Mandarin Chinese translation asked voters to select “no more than three.”
Especially in higher-level elections, bad translations can show a lack of respect. No doubt the 2012 US presidential candidates employ the best translation tactics. The nation will be watching, and scrutinizing. The American electorate can handle politicking, but not pandering.