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Video explains how to vote, in English and Hmong

DATELINE: WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. October 11, 2000, Wednesday

A new video offers Wisconsin's Hmong people a how-to guide to voting in their native language.

The Wisconsin Rapids League of Women Voters and the Hmong Association of Wood County produced "How to Vote in Wisconsin" as an instructional video for new citizens and residents, and a refresher for people of all ages and backgrounds.

During the April 5 election, Dan Smith of Smith Creativities filmed the instructional video at Grove School in Wisconsin Rapids.

The 10-minute production follows two people, Tou Pao Khang and Nancy Gibson, through the registration and voting process.

Vernon Borth, Wisconsin Rapids city clerk, also appears in the video to explain how the process works.

Following the English-speaking version, a second version is narrated in Hmong.

The script for the video was written by Jacquie Johnson, a League of Women Voters member.

She said she tried to keep the script simple due to the difficulty of translating it into Hmong.

There are three ways of speaking the Hmong language and the translated version needed to be understandable in all three versions of the language, Johnson said.

"I've never done anything like it before," Johnson said.

The group used grants from the Wisconsin League of Women Voters Education Fund and the South Wood County Community Foundation to produce the video.

"We put $700 into the project initially," Johnson said.

The state grant enabled the group to send free copies of the video to 14 Hmong Associations in Wisconsin cities. The film also was sent to public libraries, public-access television stations and school districts of those cities.

Johnson said that when she started the project, she was surprised to learn that there were no other videos on voting produced in the language spoken by Hmong people in their native Laos.

She also found that there were few videos on voting of any kind in the state.

League members viewed one that was done on voting in California, but the process is different in each state, she said.

Since the video's release in September, Johnson said she has received many calls about it.

Milwaukee's public library system contacted her for additional copies, and the Fond du Lac League of Women Voters requested a Spanish version.

The interest from groups across the state and response from those who have seen the finished project made it worth the effort, Johnson said.

"I was really impressed with the professional quality of the final product," she said.