2020 Democrats Rely on Google Translate to Court Latino Voters

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April 2, 2019

Democratic presidential candidates appear to be relying on Google translate to bolster their outreach efforts to Latino voters.

The Spanish-language portion of each candidates website has "striking similarities" to "Google's translation service," according to an analysis by Politico. The candidates appear to be using Google to translate the copy on their sites from English-to-Spanish and posting "with only minor cleanup." The end result is that websites are riddled with "awkward phrases," incorrect idioms, and generally poor grammar.

Every campaign site that POLITICO reviewed had mistakes, ranging from minor typos to truly incomprehensible passages. The website of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, posted shortly after her Feb. 20 announcement, addresses her mother using a masculine adjective. Sen. Kamala Harris at one point wrote that she had "wasted" her life defending American democracy. And Julián Castro's website extolls the possibility of building an "América" that works for everyone, seemingly not realizing that he's making promises about the entire American continent.

The candidates unwillingness to properly translate their campaign sites could backfire among the very voters they're hoping to court.

"It's the front door to the campaign. And it's indicative," a representative of UnidosUS, the nation's oldest Latino advocacy group, said. "If you're not investing in this … it will indicate to us that perhaps you're not taking the other parts of reaching out to the community as seriously."

None of the 2020 Democrats had perfect English-to-Spanish translation on their sites. Some sites, however, were better than others. Hawaii congressman Tulis Gabbard's showed "cultural sensitivity" by properly using the appropriate male and female nouns. Likewise, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's website earned praised for using "mostly appropriate terms for a highly technical subject" such as climate change. The sites of Andrew Yang, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg did not have Spanish-language sections at all.

Democrats attempts to engage Latino voters underscores how important the demographic is to the party's hopes of retaking the White House in 2020. Latinos made up 12 percent of all eligible voters in 2016, but former secretary of state Hillary Clinton garnered a smaller share of such voters than Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.