November 25, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
33°F
test

US rules Lorain County Board of Elections serves Spanish-speaking voters well

SHEFFIELD TWP. — The U.S. Department of Justice no longer will monitor the Lorain County Board of Elections for compliance with a 2011 agreement designed to improve access of Spanish-speaking voters to the ballot box.

“Defendants have fulfilled their obligations under the Agreement constant with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act,” federal prosecutors wrote in court documents filed Friday. “Defendants have agreed to continue providing bilingual ballots and election materials, employing and utilizing bilingual poll workers, and working with the Spanish-Language Advisory Group.”

Elections board Director Paul Adams said although federal oversight ended with the court filing, the county will continue to offer the same services the agreement called for, including bilingual poll workers and Spanish-language ballots.

“From the standpoint of the voters in the county, they will not see any difference,” Adams said.

The Justice Department launched its investigation into alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires equal access to the voting booth for Spanish-speaking citizens educated at American-flag schools, such as in Puerto Rico, in 2010.

There were 17,580 people of Puerto Rican descent living in Lorain County, mostly concentrated in Lorain, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, giving the county one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the nation outside of Puerto Rico.

The Justice Department estimated three years ago that nearly one-third of the county’s voting-age Puerto Rican residents had limited proficiency with the English language.

Although elections board officials argued that they had taken numerous steps before the Justice Department got involved to provide access to Spanish-speaking voters, including translators from both political parties to assist voters, the federal government disagreed.

“By failing to provide-Spanish-language election materials and consistent, adequate Spanish-language assistance during elections, defendants have denied Lorain County citizens who were educated in Puerto Rico the right to cast an informed vote and impaired their ability to participate effectively in the electoral process,” the Justice Department wrote in the lawsuit that accompanied the agreement in 2011.

Elections officials decided in 2011 that it would be easier to accept the agreement with the Justice Department rather than wage a pricey legal battle.

The agreement had been set to expire at the end of March unless the federal government sought to continue enforcing it.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the decision to stop monitoring the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Also on Friday, the Justice Department terminated an agreement it had reached with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in 2010 that had required elections official there to take similar steps to address Spanish-language voting access.

That agreement also had been slated to expire at the end of March. Justice Department attorneys wrote they would not seek to extend it because Cuyahoga County “satisfactorily addressed” their concerns.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.


  • oldruss

    With as large a native Puerto Rican, Spanish-speaking, population as there is in Lorain, it is outrageous that the Lorain County Board of Elections would have ever denied these citizens an equal right to vote. What is telling is that, “Elections officials decided in 2011 that it would be easier to accept the agreement with the Justice Department rather than wage a pricey legal battle.” The Board’s decision to afford Lorain’s Spanish-speaking population with a fair opportunity to vote was based on how much money the Board would save, NOT, because it was the right thing to do. That speaks volumes.

    • Bill Love

      How where they denied the right to vote

      • oldruss

        By not providing ballots and elections materials in Spanish those citizens who were born in Puerto Rico, and who were educated there in Spanish were denied a fair opportunity to vote. That seems to be the gravamen of the Department of Justice’s action against the Lorain County Board of Elections.

  • Sis Delish

    Would the Case have been tried in an English Speaking Courtroom with Hispanic translators and Hispanic Court Reporters?

  • Tim Francis

    We are an english speaking nation you need to learn the language.

    • oldruss

      These citizens of the United States were born and raised in Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the primary language. They do not give up their citizenship because they are non-English speakers.

      • mike beatty

        Having worked for the B. of E. for the past 5 years plus at election time, I can tell you we always went the extra mile.
        My primary spots are Sacred Heart and the LHS Annex (the new Southview Jr. High).
        A higher pct. of Hispanic voters you will not find in the county.
        When ID was in question a provisional ballot was always offered and translators were available.
        Rarely did it take long to fill out and you could see the effort was appreciated.
        We do a good job right here in River City.
        I think that is why the Feds left with no further questions.

        • oldruss

          You do not say whether or not ballots and voting materials in Spanish were available, nor do you say whether or not there were poll workers fluent in Spanish to assist the Spanish-speaking voters. Giving someone a provisional ballot, in English, when the voter does not speak or read English is hardly going the extra mile.

  • John Davidson

    We provide them plenty of chances to learn the English language. If they can’t speak English this might explain how Obummer got elected. Couldn’t understand all his BS and lies.

  • oldruss

    And a note about that headline, “. . . the BOE serves Spanish-speaking voters well.”

    Really?

    Then why did the DOJ bring a civil rights action AGAINST the BOE?