Voter Registration Drive Kit Adds Graphics in English, Spanish, and Chinese

Featured image: pen resting on a notebook whose pages have rainbow edges

The Voter Registration Drive Kit — a collection of guidelines and materials to help community groups register new voters — is the most bookmarked tool in the Election Toolkit. But until recently, the Kit had just 4 social media graphics, and they were available in English only.

Now we’ve expanded the collection to 10 graphics, and we’ve made the graphics and the 2 poster templates available in English, Spanish, and Chinese, helping get the important message of voter registration across to even more people.

Spanish social media graphics says Si tiene una nueva dirección, necesita un nuevo registro de votante

Spanish graphic addresses people who may have moved recently

Let’s take a look at why — and how — we created these new visual resources.

First of all, according to U.S. Census Bureau data on language use, the three most widely spoken languages in the United States are English, Spanish, and Chinese. That means that these are the 3 languages that will reach the most people.

Census research on voter registration rates gives us another reason these languages are important. At 51.3% and 48.8%, respectively, registration rates for Latino and Asian Americans are below the national average of 64.6%, suggesting that Spanish and Chinese outreach materials have a role to play in helping these communities narrow the gap.

To create the graphics and posters, the Center for Technology and Civic Life used Canva, the free design platform from our Infographic Design tool.

We started by making 6 new graphics in English, bringing the total to 10. When designing them, we kept the text simple and used plain language, helping to make the messages straightforward and relatively easy to translate.

Graphic with disappointed-looking suffragettes says If you’re not registered, that’s not cool

Suffragettes have a simple message in this English graphic

Then, with the help of Google Translate, we created first drafts of our Spanish and Chinese translations. We’re no language experts, but we tried to account for common translation pitfalls like prepositions, articles, and idioms, as well as variations in gender and formality. We knew the drafts would be imperfect, but they were a start.

Drafts in hand, we sought support from Spanish and Chinese outreach staff at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Jane Lau, Guillermo “Bill” Perez, and Sarita Villarreal generously provided their time and feedback, helping us to not just correct errors, but also move toward clearer, more elegant ways of getting the messages across.

For instance, Bill and Sarita walked us through many different ways to say “Not cool” in Spanish, ultimately suggesting that “Eso no es buena onda” would do the job nicely. Meanwhile, Jane showed us that our Chinese drafts combined both Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters, and she helped us decide that Traditional was the best way to reach the most people.

Of course, making a message relevant to a community takes more than just translating words. In order for the graphics to be more relatable, we also changed some of the images, putting photos of Latino Americans in the Spanish materials and Asian Americans in the Chinese ones. This way, we hoped, people would look at the materials and see a bit of themselves reflected back.

Black and white poster promotes a voter registration event with Chinese placeholder text

Voter registration poster template with Chinese placeholder text

After finally revising all the social media graphics and poster templates, we added them to the updated Voter Registration Drive Kit tool. Along with the graphics come readme.txt files that include alternative text in all 3 languages, making it possible for people to get the message even if they can’t see the graphics.

With this expanded collection of outreach materials, the Voter Registration Drive Kit still does the same things that it did before, but now it does them for more people.