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US primaries 2022: Ballots will be available in Arabic in Dearborn, Hamtramck

Translated ballots will go into effect for the August primaries, and will be available for absentee voting and at polling locations on election day
A resident casts his vote at Berston Field House in Flint, Michigan, on 3 November 2020 (AFP)

The cities of Dearborn and Hamtramck will now be offering ballots in Arabic, just in time for the upcoming primary elections in August. 

Earlier this year, both Michigan cities passed resolutions to make Arabic-language ballots available. Now, translated ballots will go into effect for the August primaries. They will be available for absentee voting and at polling locations on election day.

“This measure honours the fundamental ideal in our democracy: that it belongs to all of us, no matter our background, zip code, or native tongue,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said. “We encourage Dearborn residents to vote in the language they are most comfortable, and to embrace the universal language of democracy.”

Voters who wish to request an Arabic-language absentee ballot can do so by visiting their local clerk's office or mailing in the Arabic-language absentee ballot application. Those planning to request their absentee ballot by mail are encouraged to do so as soon as possible and no later than 18 July, in order to prevent possible postal delays.   

Between 2000 and 2016, the population in Michigan that identified as having Arabic-speaking ancestry on the US Census grew by more than 42 percent. The number of Michigan residents who claim Arab ancestry has more than doubled since the Census first measured ethnic origins in 1980. Michigan is among the fastest-growing Arab populations in the country, with an estimated  statewide population of 277, 534, Yalla Count Me In! reported.

Dearborn has one of the largest Arab and Muslim communities in the world. Last November, the city elected Hammoud, its first Arab-American mayor.

Last November, Hamtramck also elected Amer Ghalib, its first Yemeni-American mayor. Hamtramck is the first US city to have an all-Muslim government. In 2016, it made history as being the first city in the country to elect a Muslim-majority city council.

“This is a big step toward improving community engagement in the election process. It makes it easy for people to understand the ballots and make the right choices and will decrease the number of voided ballots," Ghalib said.

"This is a historic moment for the Arab community, especially in Hamtramck and Dearborn, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact it brings to our community.”

The statewide primary will take place on 2 August. Voters will take to the polls to cast their ballot for governor, congress members, state senators, and district court judges, among others.

There are several tight races in the state, including the one between two incumbent Democratic congress members first elected in 2018, Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. Both are running for Congressional District 11, which was redrawn as part of the congressional map changes.

Levin has been one of Congress's most prominent Jewish members. In a message sent to pro-Israel donors in the Detroit area, David Victor, a past president of AIPAC, which is a pro-Israel lobbying group, called Levin “arguably the most corrosive member of Congress to the US-Israel relationship”, and urged the donors to back Stevens in the race.