FL: Judge Refuses to Dismiss Case on Language Assistance for LEP Voters
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
- Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
A decision by a Federal Court in Florida may force several counties throughout Florida to provide Spanish language assistance to voters. If upheld at trial, any Florida county with a large number of Puerto Ricans not already required could be forced to provide Spanish language ballots and Spanish assistance to voters who feel they need help to participate in elections. The judge in Volusia County ruled that private citizens could sue to enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
The case was brought by LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of five Puerto Rican voters who claimed that under the Voting Rights Act they were entitled to language assistance. A little used section of the Act provides that people educated in an American-flag school in which the language of instruction is not English cannot be denied the vote because they do not read or write English. The courts have interpreted this to mean that such individuals should receive Spanish-language assistance.
United States District Court Judge John Antoon II ruled that Volusia County could be forced to translate ballot materials and provide Spanish-language assistance to voters who need it.