Federal judge orders Florida to provide election materials in Spanish
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Federal judge orders Florida to provide election materials in Spanish

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Friday ordered [text, PDF] 32 Florida counties to provide sample Spanish language ballots in order to help Spanish-speaking citizens vote in the upcoming election.

The lawsuit was brought by a Puerto Rican citizen who moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria as well as a number of non-profits dedicated to promoting voter outreach in the Latino community. The suit was specifically brought in order to enforce Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act in 32 Florida counties “that contain Puerto Rican populations but currently conduct English-only elections.”

The judge granted part of the order, stating that “[v]oting in a language you do not understand is like asking this Court decide the winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry—ineffective, in other words.” The court also noted that “[t]he public interest is always served by more equitable, easier access to the ballot. Additionally, state and local officials serve the public interest when they conform their conduct to federal law’s requirements.”

The judge did not order for all of the requested relief because of the “timeline of this lawsuit and the looming deadlines Florida election officials face,”. Instead, the judge wrote that the 32 counties “shall provide signage, sample facsimile ballots, and notice in Spanish on their websites.”