Civil rights groups in Florida are suing for bilingual ballots, claiming the English-language ballots in a state with a growing population of Spanish-speakers are a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Civic engagement groups Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Florida’s secretary of State and the elections supervisors of 32 Florida counties. The groups are calling for these counties to offer bilingual ballots and assistance for non English-speakers, with a focus on the growing population of Puerto Ricans in the state. The secretary of State’s office said it would “review” the lawsuit, according to the The Tampa Bay Times.
“Currently, many thousands of Puerto Rican and other Spanish-speaking Florida residents with limited English proficiency are being impeded from exercising their fundamental right to vote because elections in many parts of the state are conducted only in English,” wrote LatinoJustice PRLDEF, one of the legal advocacy organizations involved in the action, in a Thursday press release.
Section 4E of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guarantees the right to register and vote to those with limited English, NBC reported. The act says the right to vote cannot be denied to those “who have completed the 6th grade in public school, such as those in Puerto Rico, where the predominant classroom language is a language other than English.”
After Hurricane Maria, more than 56,000 Puerto Ricans resettled in Florida, increasing the already substantial population of Spanish-speakers in the state.