BOSTON (AP) — Cambodian and civil rights groups are calling on Massachusetts to issue mail-in voting applications translated into the Khmer language.

The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association and Lawyers for Civil Rights on Friday said Secretary of State William Galvin's office must immediately comply with an emergency state law requiring vote-by-mail applications translated into Khmer.

The organizations said Lowell residents recently received applications fully translated in both English and Spanish, but not in Khmer.

The city near the New Hampshire state line is home to one of the largest populations of Cambodian immigrants in the country, with many families coming as refugees after the Vietnam War.

“There is no excuse for the Secretary’s disenfranchisement of Khmer-speaking voters,” said Oren Sellstrom, of the Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, noting Galvin’s office has received more than $8 million in federal funding and $5 million from the state for coronavirus-related expenses. “He must fix this mistake now, while there is still time to do so.”

Debra O'Malley, a spokeswoman for Galvin's office, said mailers sent out in Lowell weeks ago included information in Khmer, and thousands of them have already been returned to the city's Elections Commission.

She also said the Khmer-language application can also be found at, and that the office has Khmer interpreters available to answer any questions.

Sellstrom responded that the mailers only included a short statement in Khmer pointing voter to the Secretary of State's website.

“What the law requires is a fully-translated application -- obviously much more accessible and necessary to ensure equal voting opportunity,” he said via email.

Civil rights and minority groups previously appealed to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to get Galvin’s office to send out the mail ballot applications to every voter in the state by the July 15 deadline in the emergency legislation.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.