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Latino Daily News

Sunday October 9, 2011

Government Settlement Protects Voting Rights of Spanish-Speaking Voters in Ohio

Photo: Spanish Speaker Rights in Ohio Upheld

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The Justice Department announced a settlement with Lorain County, Ohio, to protect the rights of Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican voters under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act.  The agreement is intended to resolve concerns that limited-English proficient Puerto Rican voters were being denied their full voting rights because the county failed to provide language assistance as required by law.

The county has agreed that, starting with the Nov. 8, 2011, election, it will provide county-wide bilingual ballots on the voting machines at the polls, as well as bilingual poll workers in targeted precincts.  The agreement includes additional steps that the county will take to achieve full compliance with Section 4(e) by the first election held in 2012.

The parties have also agreed to seek a federal court order authorizing federal observers to monitor Election Day activities in polling places in Lorain County and to create a community-based Spanish-language advisory committee, which will include participation and feedback from the local Puerto Rican community.

Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions with significant Puerto Rican populations cannot deny an individual’s voting rights based on their ability to read, write, understand or interpret any election matter in English.  The 2000 Census found more than 13,000 Puerto Ricans resided in Lorain County , and that 32.5 percent of the county’s voting-age Puerto Ricans were limited-English proficient.