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Judge Orders Counties To Provide Spanish Language Sample Ballots

Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.

Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.

A Judge has ordered 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish language voting materials to comply with the federal voting rights act. US District Judge Mark Walker sided with advocacy groups who sued the state to get more assistance for Puerto Rican voters.

“Here we go again,” wrote  Judge Walker in his ruling, referencing the movie Groundhog Day, and noting that “the state of Florida is alleged to violate federal law in its handing of elections.”

To guarantee Puerto Ricans who were educated in Spanish speaking schools the right to a meaningful vote, the judge granted in part the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. He ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to instruct supervisors of elections in the 32 counties to make sample ballots in Spanish available, and to publish them on their websites.

But, Judge Walker said, requiring official bilingual ballots or separate Spanish ballots would place significant hardships on election administrators.

“It is remarkable,” Walker wrote, “that it takes a coalition of voting rights organizations and individuals to sue in federal court to seek minimal compliance with the plain language of a venerable 53 year old law.”

Gov. Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement the supervisors of elections will be advised to comply with the ruling.

Florida is the world’s greatest melting pot, and we don’t want any registered voters to not be able to exercise their right because of a language barrier. Federal law determines which counties are required to provide ballots in Spanish, and the Florida Department of State provides voting materials in English and Spanish. We are glad that more counties will do what we are already doing at the state level. The Department of State will advise the locally elected Supervisors of Elections to comply.


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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie