The State of Alaska and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) announced a settlement Thursday of a lawsuit claiming the State failed to provide translations of voting materials in Gwich’in or Yup’ik. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates that “Any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots,” must be provided in minority languages when five percent of the population speaks limited English. Mike Toyukak of Manakotak, Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Traditional Village of Togiak, the Arctic Village Council, and the Village of Venetie Council filed suit in 2013. Last September, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that by failing to translate the Official Election Pamphlet into Gwich’in and Yup’ik, the State violates Section 203.
Without a pamphlet in Gwich’in or Yup’ik, attorney Natalie Landreth told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner after the ruling, her clients “get no pre-election information about who the candidates are. They won’t know about redistricting. They won’t know about ballot measures, bond propositions, judicial retention, information about early voting.”
Gleason also ruled that though the State provides language assistance “during any stage of the electoral process” for speakers of Tagalog, Spanish, Central Yup’ik, Siberian Yupik, Inupiaq, Koyukon, and Gwich’in, it does not adequately inform voters that assistance is available.