Daily Archives: April 9, 2010

Ballots In a Foreign Language?

Over at The Muche, lilMike has (once again) started a discussion regarding the voting rights of Hispanics in general, and Puerto Ricans in particular. Specifically, the right of said citizens to be able to read ballots in Spanish in order to better understand political issues facing them. Mike’s referencing a federal court case here in Volusia County, Florida, in which a settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed two years ago by Crimilda Perez-Santiago. From the Orlando Sentinel:

DeLAND – On the eve of a federal trial, Volusia County and a group of Puerto Rican-born west Volusia residents have reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit over bilingual ballots.

Five residents and the Volusia County Hispanic Association filed suit against Volusia County for not providing a Spanish-language ballot during the 2008 election.

Details of the settlement are still being negotiated but to end the lawsuit, the county could pay $99,995 to LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the legal defense organization representing the plaintiffs, said Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall.

The county would also agree to provide interpreters and bilingual poll workers at certain precincts, and to provide bilingual ballots in 2012, McFall said.

The agreement would have to be approved by the Volusia County Council, which is scheduled to discuss the settlement on April 15.

McFall said that if the case had gone to trial and if the county had lost, it would have cost Volusia County half a million dollars.

John Garcia, spokesman for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said the organization would not comment on the pending settlement. PRLDEF is an acronym for the group’s original name Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that under the Voting Rights Act, they were entitled to a ballot in Spanish because they were raised in schools in Puerto Rico where Spanish is the dominant language.

Although Volusia County already provides some assistance to Spanish-language residents, it didn’t provide bilingual ballots.

Volusia County has about 18,000 registered voters who are self-described as Hispanic, McFall said.

Entwined in the stereotypical protestations that “English is the national language!” and “I think that anyone who wishes to become a citizen of the US needs to be able to speak English well enough to function among English speaking people!” one sees an obvious lack of knowledge – an ignorance, if you will – of our laws. In stating his disapproval of the court case, Mike states:

I think it’s simply a community activist organization shopped for an aggrieved “victim” to push their particular political agenda.”

Now…that statement may or may not be true. However, it certainly shouldn’t marginalize the fact that Americans of Hispanic heritage in this nation are provided the necessary protections based upon population to be able to view ballots and election material in a language other than English:

The law covers those localities where there are more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens in a single political subdivision (usually a county, but a township or municipality in some states) who are members of a single minority language group, have depressed literacy rates, and do not speak English very well.

It’s fairly obvious that following the 2010 Census, Volusia County (and most likely, every county in the State) will need to follow these requirements. Unfortunately, lilMike didn’t verify this fact until he had riled the populace:

Although it does seem pointless.  It sounds like the census from 2010 will probably have every county in Central Florida with bilingual ballots.  So that will happen regardless.

As is often the case, I wonder just who, exactly, is pushing disinformation* in an attempt to “push their particular political agenda“!

*Merriam-Webster: Disinformation:  false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.