Federal judge rules Spanish-language ballots must be provided in Florida for 2020 election

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“I voted” Credit: BILL WECHTER/AFP/Getty Images

Chief Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida Gainesville Division on Friday ordered 32 state counties to provide ballots in Spanish, starting with Florida’s primary election scheduled for March 17, 2020.

“Compliance with this Order is not optional,” Judge Walker wrote in his 16-page ruling. “While the vast majority of supervisors of election are upstanding professionals who follow the law and court orders, do difficult but necessary work under tight timelines, and are often subjects of multiple bouts of litigation, there may be some who selectively interpret parts of this court’s orders or otherwise avoid compliance. This court will not hesitate to use every tool the law provides to enforce this order.”

The Palm Beach Post reported the decision, saying, “The order came in a case focused on Puerto Rican voters and part of the federal Voting Rights Act aimed at people who were educated in schools where the predominant language was not English.”

The ruling also requires the counties to provide any additional assistance as required to Spanish-speaking citizens.

Florida has 67 counties. The 32 counties impacted by this court order are Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor, and Wakulla.

This order follows up a previous injunction in the case, ordering the counties to provide sample ballots in Spanish for the November 2018 election.

The judge recognized the state government’s promise to take steps voluntarily that will provide Spanish language ballots. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee have already begun the process of creating new election rules that will require the state to provide voters with Spanish-language ballots in time for the 2020 general election.

Judge Walker said DeSantis and Lee “should be lauded” for their efforts, but that the injunction is necessary to make sure Spanish-speaking citizens are covered until the new rules are in effect, and in case the new rules are not sufficiently compliant with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Fox News reported …

Judge Walker reportedly noted that Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act “prohibits English-only elections for those citizens — yes, citizens — educated in Puerto Rico in Spanish.” (emphasis in original) Therefore, he ordered that the 32 counties in question must provide voters with ballots in Spanish starting with Florida’s primary election scheduled for March 17, 2020.

To be clear, the ruling applies to U.S. citizens, not illegals. The case was originally brought before the court by voters from Puerto Rico who are lacking proficiency in English.

In 1940, Congress enacted legislation that conferred birthright U.S. citizenship on people born in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, 837,000 Hispanics were registered Democrats, 775,000 independents, and 527,000 Republicans.

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Victor Rantala

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