An Oct. 22 Metro story reported that Montgomery County is likely to face problems at the polls, especially as it searches for ways to serve Latino voters. During the primary elections, the county had to scramble to meet the Justice Department's requirement that election services be provided in both English and Spanish. These problems are likely to persist in the general election.

Once the dust settles, Montgomery County election officials should look to Los Angeles County to see how to address the needs of Latino voters. Los Angeles -- which is required to serve voters in seven languages -- has created a Community Voter Outreach Committee that has effectively assisted the county in managing election services to voters who don't speak English well.

The program channels the concerns of interest groups into a forum for action. The county and these groups work together to improve the voting process. Such a process would help Montgomery County avoid the problem it had during the primary with a lack of bilingual poll workers. After all, who better to help the county find bilingual poll workers than organizations that serve Latino voters?

The public can play a key role in making sure that elections are run effectively and helping election officials do their jobs better. By adopting the Los Angeles model, Montgomery County could improve its elections and give voters a voice in the democratic process.



The writer was on the staff of the National Commission for Federal Election Reform.