The official who coordinated the Division of Election’s Yup’ik language program knew the translation for a radio announcement was off but suggested ignoring it anyway. Emails entered as exhibits during a federal voting-rights trial include a 2009 back-and-forth between the division’s then-language coordinator in Bethel, Dorie Wassilie, and her boss, Shelly Growden. The emails came in the midst of a prior lawsuit, settled in 2010. Wassilie, in her email, said the division would be criticized by the plaintiffs if they caught it, “but what the heck, it’s a similar word and hope that it goes right over their heads! :-)” Wassilie, a Yup’ik speaker, wrote to Growden. Growden, who does not speak Yup’ik, responded: “I too think it should be fine.”
Instead of the radio notices in Bethel and Dillingham saying “absentee voting,” they said, “to be voting for a long time,” the Anchorage Daily News reported. Wassilie left her post in 2012.
The current case, being heard by a federal judge in Anchorage, alleges the state has failed to provide accurate, complete translations of voting materials into Native languages. The state contends its program meets legal requirements.
Growden, in testimony Thursday, said the tone of Wassilie’s 2009 email was related to the tense environment as the prior case worked its way through court. She said Wassilie took the “attacks” on the division personally.