minority languages

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National: Federal law allows nearly anyone to translate for voters. At polls, it can be a different story. | NBC

Dona Kim Murphey volunteered for the first time this year as a Korean-language interpreter, helping out at an early voting day in late October in Harris County, Texas. But Murphey said she and others were told to remain beyond a 100-foot line outside the polling center after assisting some voters with their ballots. An election worker, she said, had grown concerned that a group of Korean-American high school students greeting voters may have been electioneering. “She was worried that we were and couldn’t confirm that we weren’t, other than to go by our word,” Murphey said. While some experienced issues on Election Day like broken machines, voter confusion and long lines, others faced obstacles in getting language assistance.

Full Article: Federal law allows nearly anyone to translate for voters. At polls, it can be a different story..

Texas: ‘Election drainage’: ACLU says Bexar County inaccurately translated ‘election runoff’ in online Spanish material | San Antonio Express News

Spanish-speaking voters in Bexar County looking for information online about the race to replace ex-Sen. Carlos Uresti were no doubt startled to find there was “election drainage” coming up instead of a runoff. That’s one of the bad translations created by Google Translate on the county’s elections site — it was still there Tuesday — prompting the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas to write a letter to Bexar officials, warning that the county could be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Jacque Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator, said all of the county’s departments use Google Translate online. The translation engine offers more than 100 language choices, from Albanian to Zulu and even Latin.

Full Article: ‘Election drainage’: ACLU says Bexar County inaccurately translated ‘election runoff’ in online Spanish material - ExpressNews.com.

Florida: Judge orders 32 Florida counties to help Puerto Rican voters | Associated Press

A federal judge ordered 32 Florida counties to provide sample ballots in Spanish so Puerto Rican voters can use them to navigate English-only ballots in a ruling Friday that was often sarcastic and scolding. A coalition of groups sued the Department of State and the county supervisors in the hope they’d be forced to produce bilingual or Spanish language ballots. While U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker agreed with the defendants that it would be nearly impossible to change election software and to redesign ballots before the Nov. 6 election, he ordered them to make provisions for Puerto Rican voters. “While lost on some, Puerto Rico is part of the United States,” Walker said in his ruling. “The American flag has flown over the island since 1898, and its people have been American citizens  since 1917.”

Full Article: Judge orders 32 Florida counties to help Puerto Rican voters – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale.

Florida: Federal judge weighs dispute challenging Florida counties that don’t provide Spanish ballots | Orlando Weekly

A federal judge Wednesday will hear arguments in a lawsuit seeking to require 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish-language ballots and other materials to Puerto Ricans who are eligible to vote in the state. The arguments, which focus heavily on the federal Voting Rights Act, will come almost exactly two months before the Nov. 6 general election. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will consider a request from plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction that would require Spanish-language ballots and assistance for what are believed to be more than 30,000 Puerto Ricans. “The counties at issue in this case are home to a class of thousands of Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans —- including those who recently arrived after Hurricane Maria —- who are eligible to vote but are unable to vote effectively in English,” the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction said. “But despite repeated requests to many of the counties to provide Spanish-language election materials and assistance to protect the rights of these Floridians, the counties continue to conduct English-only elections that effectively deprive those citizens of their right to vote.”

Full Article: Federal judge weighs dispute challenging Florida counties that don't provide Spanish ballots | Blogs.

Florida: Election official: Bilingual ballots in 32 Florida counties is ‘recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times

Another Florida voting rights case heads to court Tuesday as advocacy groups ask a judge to tell the state to direct 32 counties to print voting materials in English and Spanish in the November election. The plaintiffs argue that Hurricane Maria forced Puerto Rican voters to evacuate to counties all over Florida, including many places where all ballots, signs and other materials are printed only in English. The lawsuit was filed by Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, UnidosUS and Vamos4PR on behalf of a voter who’s registered in Gainesville, Marta Valentina Rivera Madera. The groups want election materials be printed in both languages in 32 counties, including Monroe, Pasco and Hernando.

Full Article: Election official: Bilingual ballots in 32 Florida counties is ‘recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: Civil rights groups sue for bilingual ballots in Florida | The Hill

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.

Full Article: Civil rights groups sue for bilingual ballots in Florida | TheHill.

Florida: Lawsuit seeks Spanish translation of ballots, alleges voting rights violations affecting Puerto Ricans | The Washington Post

Civil rights organizations have asked a federal judge to order the state of Florida and local election officials to provide Spanish-language ballots, literature and translators for voters of Latino descent in time for the midterm election. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, a coalition of nonpartisan groups argue that Florida’s secretary of state and local officials are violating the voting rights of Puerto Ricans, tens of thousands of whom moved to the state in the past year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The groups have spent months trying to work with local election officials in 32 counties to provide language services to Spanish-speaking residents.

Full Article: Florida lawsuit seeks Spanish translation of ballots, alleges voting rights violations affecting Puerto Ricans - The Washington Post.

National: Voting Info in Spanish Often Lost in Translation | WhoWhatWhy

Incorrect translations, hard-to-find details, gibberish, or sometimes no information at all. That’s what many Spanish-speaking American voters encounter when searching for online voting materials in Spanish. In most cities, counties, and states across the nation, there is no federal requirement to present information in anything other than English. But for 263 jurisdictions — the vast majority of which are counties — federal law requires that voter information be presented in a minority language, with Spanish being the most common. California, Texas, and Florida are the only states required to present statewide voter information in Spanish. WhoWhatWhy has examined a number of official government websites across the country, looking at how well English-language voter information is translated into Spanish, how often it’s done, and if there are any major discrepancies between the two. What we discovered is that translated material is often hard to find and sometimes is nonexistent. Also, much of what does exist is poorly translated. In a closely contested election, that could make all the difference. In some instances, certain information just doesn’t get included in Spanish.

Full Article: Voting Info in Spanish Often Lost in Translation - WhoWhatWhy.

Texas: Voting law on language interpreters violates Voting Rights Act, court says | The Texas Tribune

Texas ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act by restricting the interpretation assistance English-limited voters may receive at the ballot box, a federal appeals court found. In an opinion issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an obscure provision of the Texas Election Code that requires interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help clashes with federal voting protections.

Full Article: Texas voting law on language interpreters violates Voting Rights Act, court says | The Texas Tribune.

Georgia: Latino groups push for more Spanish voter info in Gwinnett County | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Two Latino advocacy groups sent letters last week to Gwinnett County and several cities therein, alleging varying levels of noncompliance with a new mandate to provide Spanish-language voting materials to their constituents — and threatening litigation if they don’t change things quickly. Leaders from the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and New York-based LatinoJustice believe the county and multiple cities are not yet fully in line with the requirements of a U.S. Census Bureau designation handed down in December. They cited government websites that provided plenty of election information in English but little or no such information in Spanish.

Full Article: Gwinnett news: Latino groups push for more Spanish voter info.

Virginia: Yo Voté: Communities Scramble to Translate Ballots | Stateline

In this community center turned polling place, Juan Sanchis stands near an electronic ballot reader with a smile on his face, waiting. Many of the voters filing into the Willston Community Center, in a diverse pocket of Fairfax County, don’t speak English very well. When it seems like the voters don’t understand, Sanchis switches over to Korean or Spanish, or gets a worker who speaks Vietnamese. Around him on the tables and walls, pamphlets and signs are translated into all three of those languages. “If they need help understanding, that’s what I try to do,” Sanchis said earlier this month, as Virginia primary voters went to the polls to choose candidates for a variety of state and local offices. As the country grows more diverse, more local governments like Fairfax County, a Washington, D.C., suburb, are falling under a federal election law that requires them to provide language assistance — including translators and translated election materials — to certain minority groups that are heavily represented in their communities. Dozens of communities were added to the list for the first time in December, sending local officials in those communities scrambling.

Full Article: Yo Voté: Communities Scramble to Translate Ballots.

Texas: Appeals court to weigh Texas voting law limiting language interpreters | The Texas Tribune

Amid last-minute efforts to overhaul the state’s voter identification law in light of an ongoing legal fight, the Texas Legislature gaveled out without addressing another embattled election law that’s now moving forward in federal court. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday will take up a legal challenge to an obscure provision in the Texas Election Code that requires interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help. That state law has been on hold since last year after a federal district judge ruled it violated the federal Voting Rights Act under which any voter who needs assistance because of visual impairments, disabilities or literacy skills can be helped in casting a ballot by the person of their choice, as long as it’s not their employer or a union leader.

Full Article: Appeals court to weigh Texas voting law limiting language interpreters | The Texas Tribune.

California: There were serious problems in 2016 for some California voters who don’t speak English, new report says | Los Angeles Times

California voters with limited English language skills were too often left on their own when it came to getting help casting ballots last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers. The data raise significant questions about the effectiveness of a long-standing state election law designed to help those voters, and whether they will struggle more as counties are allowed to transition away from traditional neighborhood polling places. “We’re talking about huge chunks of the electorate that are in danger of being disenfranchised,” said Jonathan Stein, a staff attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California.

Full Article: There were serious problems in 2016 for some California voters who don't speak English, new report says - LA Times.

California: U.S. Department of Justice frees Napa County of bilingual voting oversight | Napa Valley Register

Napa County is free of U.S. Department of Justice oversight on how it reaches out to Spanish-only speakers during elections, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the county will stop its bilingual ballot efforts. County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur attributes the county’s 82 percent Nov. 8 election turnout in part to its Spanish-language outreach. One of his primary responsibilities is to make certain every registered voter can cast a vote in an informed manner, he said. “We’re sticking with that goal,” Tuteur told the county Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting. Still, with this and other recent elections developments, Tuteur wants to hear from supervisors and the community. He’s tentatively scheduled a Board of Supervisors election workshop for Feb. 28.

Full Article: U.S. Department of Justice frees Napa County of bilingual voting oversight | Local News | napavalleyregister.com.

Texas: Odd voting law on interpreters scuttled before November election | The Texas Tribune

Mallika Das, a U.S. citizen who was born in India, walked into a Williamson County polling place in 2014 eager to cast her ballot. Because she was not proficient in English and had found it difficult to vote in the past, Das brought her son, Saurabh, to help her. They both spoke Bengali, an Asian dialect. But when Saurabh told poll workers he was there to interpret the English ballot for his mother, the duo ran into an unexpected requirement. By law, a poll official determined, Saurabh could not serve as an interpreter for his mother because he was not registered to vote in the county. Saurabh was registered to vote in neighboring Travis County.

Full Article: Odd Texas voting law on interpreters scuttled before November election | The Texas Tribune.

National: Groups making sure voting materials are available in Spanish | USA Today

National groups are translating state voter ID laws into Spanish to help make sure Hispanic voters bring proper identification to the polls on Election Day. “There are so many voter ID laws they can be confusing because in every state they are different,” said Joanna Cuevas Ingram, associate counsel with Latino Justice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educational Fund). “There’s a need for clarity. We believe every vote counts and every voter should have access to information regardless of the language they speak.’’ Latino Justice PRLDEF is teaming with the Brennan Center for Justice and Rock the Vote to translate into Spanish voter ID requirements and registration deadlines for all 50 states for the Nov. 8 elections. The groups plan to unveil the project later this summer.

Full Article: Groups making sure voting materials are available in Spanish.

Alaska: Lost in translation: The difficult but necessary process of creating indigenous language ballots | KTOO

The state’s Division of Elections is required to translate ballots and create an elections glossary in six dialects of Yup’ik and also Gwich’in. Those are the terms of a lawsuit settled last year by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. But that process isn’t easy. Think about these words — “candidates for elected office are running for a seat.” What image pops in your head? Retired Yup’ik professor Oscar Alexie says not a political event. “I’m thinking of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and all those guys at the race line waiting for someone to say ‘Go!’” And whoever gets to the chair first is the boss, Alexie said.

Full Article: Lost in translation: The difficult but necessary process of creating indigenous language ballots.

Alaska: State to Provide Voting Pamphlets with Gwich’in and Yup’ik Translations | Alaska Commons

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.

Full Article: State to Provide Voting Pamphlets with Gwich'in and Yup'ik Translations - Alaska Commons.

Arizona: Arizona Elections officials grapple with new Native American language rule | Cronkite News

Coconino County election officials have provided translators at the polls for Navajo speakers. They have done the same for Hopi voters. But Yuma has them stumped. “There has never been a request for (Yuma),” said Coconino County Elections Administrator Patty Hansen. “So now we’re trying to find someone who can speak that language.”

Coconino was one of three Arizona counties that were told by the federal government in October that they would have to add voting assistance in the obscure language, which previously had been required only of Yuma County.

Those four were among 248 counties in 25 states whose populations require election assistance in other languages, according to the Census Bureau. Under the Voting Rights Act, assistance can be required in jurisdictions where a minority with poor English skills makes up 5 percent of the voting-age population and has literacy levels below the national average. But in Arizona, Yuma County officials said they have never received call for assistance in the language, although they claim they are ready if anyone asks.

Full Article: Elections officials grapple with new Native American language rule – Cronkite News.

Colorado: 16 counties go forward with English-only ballots after federal delay | The Denver Post

Sixteen Colorado counties are printing ballots this week in English but not Spanish for the November election after waiting in vain for months for a federal Voting Rights Act mandate.

The counties had expected to be ordered by the U.S. Justice Department to supply ballots in Spanish as well as English because populations of Spanish-speaking voters had increased to a level that could trigger a requirement for dual-language ballots under the 1973 act.

But ballots were certified Friday by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and a spokesman for his office said it is too late for Spanish ballots. “That ship has sailed,” said Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge.

Full Article: 16 Colorado counties go forward with English-only ballots after federal delay - The Denver Post.