Over 19 million voting-age eligible citizens from language minority groups reside in the covered jurisdictions, including more than 14 million Latinos
The Census Bureau today released a list of 248 political jurisdictions that will be required to provide language assistance for language-minority U.S. citizens participating in the electoral process. Of the 248 covered jurisdictions, 212 will be required to provide citizens with assistance in Spanish.
“The language assistance requirements of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) strengthens the foundation of our nation’s democracy by ensuring that all U.S. citizens, regardless of linguistic ability, are able to fully and fairly exercise their right to participate in the electoral process,” said NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas.
The list, which will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, identifies jurisdictions covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that must provide language assistance for Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native and Asian language groups. Since Section 203 was enacted in 1975, these determinations have been made by the Census Bureau following each decennial census. (See below for state breakdown of all covered jurisdictions)
The new determinations mark the first time in history that statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS) have been used to produce the list of covered jurisdictions. During the VRA Reauthorization in 2006, Congress instructed the Census Bureau to begin utilizing data from the ACS survey to provide more frequent coverage determinations. Future coverage determinations will be made every five years, with the next determinations scheduled to be released in 2016.
A total of 19,209,431 voting-age citizens from language minority groups reside in the 248 covered jurisdictions, compared with 13,463,635 in 2002, an increase of 42.7 percent. Of the voting-age citizens covered, approximately 14,794,716 are Latino.
The new determinations included a slight decrease in the number of jurisdictions covered for Spanish. Compared to 224 in 2002, U.S. citizens will have access to Spanish assistance in 212 jurisdictions across the country. (See below for state breakdown of covered jurisdictions for Spanish)
According to the new determinations, three states will be covered in their entirety (all for Spanish): California, Florida (for the first time) and Texas.
Statewide coverage requires that all statewide forms distributed by the Secretary of State’s office, as well as any assistance provided by the office, must be offered in Spanish. In addition, Spanish language assistance must be available in communities or voting precincts where there is a need for that assistance.
States with net gains in Spanish language coverage for individual jurisdictions include: AK, CA, CT, FL, IL, MA, MI, NE, NJ, PA, RI, UT, VA, and WI.
States with net losses in Spanish language coverage for individual jurisdictions include: AZ, CO, KS, NM, and TX (still maintains statewide coverage but had elimination of Spanish coverage for 15 of its 89 individual jurisdictions).
Some of the more notable jurisdictions now covered for Spanish are located in areas that are non-traditional centers of Latino populations, including Aleutians East Borough (AK), Fairfax County (VA) in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, Salt Lake County (UT), including Salt Lake City, Milwaukee (WI), 2 additional counties in CT and 5 additional townships in MA.
The determinations also revealed a reduction of individual jurisdiction coverage for Spanish in a number of states, including Oklahoma, which lost Spanish coverage entirely (2 counties were covered in 2002), and in New Mexico, which lost statewide coverage and had a net reduction of 5 counties from 2002 (16 of its counties are still covered for Spanish).
Mr. Vargas concluded by saying, “The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights afforded to us as citizens of this country, and we look forward to working with the Department of Justice to ensure that officials in newly covered jurisdictions have the information and resources necessary to uphold this right for all Americans.”