UNITED STATES NEWS

Justice Dept. settles with New Jersey county over ballot languages, highlighting widespread barrier

May 10, 2023, 2:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has reached a settlement with a New Jersey county over language barriers for Spanish-speaking voters, emphasizing a growing challenge for certain minority communities nationwide.

The agreement with Union County comes after federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit alleging it failed to make registration and voting notices, forms, instructions and ballots available in Spanish, violating sections of the federal Voting Rights Act.

“We know firsthand how language barriers hurt our community,” said Hector Sanchez Barba, chief executive of Mi Familia Vota, a national group seeking to boost Latino political influence. “Eliminating language barriers is not only legally sound but also the right thing to do to strengthen our democracy.”

The county, which has nearly 28,000 Spanish-speaking citizens of voting age, will be required to print all election materials in English and Spanish, and ensure that someone is available to assist Spanish-speaking voters in person. It also will have to assist voters with disabilities, who have long been overlooked in the fight for access to the polls.

The consent decree, announced Tuesday, will need approval from a federal judge.

New Jersey is one of several places across the U.S. where language barriers hamper access to the ballot for minority communities, according to voter advocacy groups. Some Asian American and Asian immigrant communities are particularly affected, said Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, the associate director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Democracy Program.

“Despite a long history in the U.S., Asian Americans still face bias that views them as perpetual foreigners who aren’t ‘real Americans’ and don’t deserve to be a part of the fabric of our democracy,” she said.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, communities must provide language assistance for voting if more than 5% of the voting-age citizens — or over 10,000 — have limited English proficiency.

It can be harder for Asian-speaking communities to be covered under federal law because there are so many languages to consider, said Bob Sakaniwa, director of policy and advocacy of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote. Bangladeshi, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong and Vietnamese are just some, he said.

For example, Asian communities make up a significant portion of Mercer, Hudson and Somerset counties in New Jersey, but the populations don’t meet the federal threshold for providing assistance. Arabic-speaking communities also are not reflected in New Jersey’s voting rights legislation, which state advocacy groups are still fighting to change.

Union County did not immediately respond when asked how it intended to implement the consent decree.

The New Jersey agreement underscores the importance of the federal Voting Rights Act, despite the landmark law being undermined by Supreme Court decisions and voting restrictions in Republican-led states. Henal Patel, law and policy director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said it’s important for local officials to comply with the act and for the federal government to enforce it.

“This is necessary for voters in these areas so that they can cast their ballots with a full understanding of what they’re voting for,” Patel said.

United States News

FILE - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks during a news conference Feb. 22,...

Associated Press

Los Angeles County district attorney seeks reelection in contest focused on feeling of public safety

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County voters are set to decide next month if embattled District Attorney George Gascón will remain the head of the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office in a race centered on perceptions of public safety. Gascón, who was elected in 2020 on a criminal justice platform alongside a wave of progressive […]

6 hours ago

In combo of undated selfie images provided courtesy of the Dime Doe family, show Dime Doe, a Black ...

Associated Press

A love affair unraveled before a Black transgender woman was fatally shot in rural South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Black transgender woman and the guy she was secretly dating had just been pulled over in rural South Carolina. Dime Doe, the driver, was worried. She already had points against her license and didn’t want another ticket to stop her from getting behind the wheel. Daqua Lameek Ritter, whom she […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Remains found over 50 years ago identified through DNA technology as Oregon teen

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The remains of a teenager found more than 50 years ago have been identified through advanced DNA technology as a young woman who went missing from Portland, Oregon State Police said. The remains are that of Sandra Young, a high school student who disappeared in 1968 or 1969, police said Thursday […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

California man arrested for making threats against election official in Arizona after 2022 vote

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaving threatening messages on the personal cellphone of an Arizona election worker he accused of rigging the 2022 election results, federal prosecutors said. The 52-year-old was charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and will make an initial court […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Two more candidates file papers to run for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two more candidates filed paperwork Thursday to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballots for U.S. Senate as Democratic Sen. Bob Casey runs for a fourth term and Democrats try to maintain a majority in the narrowly divided chamber. Brandi Tomasetti, a Republican from Lancaster County, and William Parker, a Democrat from Allegheny […]

9 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Justice Dept. settles with New Jersey county over ballot languages, highlighting widespread barrier