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

Associated Press

Connecticut Senate passes wide-ranging bill to regulate AI. But its fate remains uncertain

HARTFORD (AP) — The Connecticut Senate pressed ahead Wednesday with one of the first major legislative proposals in the U.S. to reign in bias in artificial intelligence decision-making and protect people from harm, including manufactured videos or deepfakes. The vote was held despite concerns the bill might stifle innovation, become a burden for small businesses […]

25 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge orders anonymous jury for trial of self-exiled Chinese businessman, citing his past acts

NEW YORK (AP) — A self-exiled Chinese businessman is set to face an anonymous jury at his trial next month on fraud charges after a judge on Wednesday cited his past willingness to tamper with judicial proceedings as reason for concern. Guo Wengui goes to trial May 22 in Manhattan federal court, where jurors will […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

New California rule aims to limit health care cost increases to 3% annually

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies in California will be limited to annual price increases of 3% starting in 2029 under a new rule state regulators approved Wednesday in the latest attempt to corral the ever-increasing costs of medical care in the United States. The money Californians spent on health care […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge declines to dismiss lawsuits filed against rapper Travis Scott over deadly Astroworld concert

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge has declined to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits filed against rap star Travis Scott over his role in the deadly 2021 Astroworld festival in which 10 people were killed in a crowd surge. State District Judge Kristen Hawkins issued a one-page order denying Scott’s request that he and his touring and […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Louisiana dolphin shot dead; found along Cameron Parish coast

CAMERON, La. (AP) — Up to $20,000 is being offered for information leading to a criminal conviction or civil penalty involving a dolphin that was found shot to death in southwest Louisiana. Federal wildlife officials, in a news release Monday, said a juvenile bottlenose dolphin was found shot to death March 13 along the coast […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Oklahoma prosecutors charge fifth member of anti-government group in Kansas women’s killings

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma prosecutors charged a fifth member of an anti-government group on Wednesday with killing and kidnapping two Kansas women. Paul Jeremiah Grice, 31, was charged in Texas County with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. Grice told an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(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.

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