Union County and the U.S. Department of Justice have entered into a proposed consent decree over the county’s provision of bilingual election materials for Spanish-speaking voters, as is required under federal law in jurisdictions with large non-English-speaking populations. The decree will settle a Voting Rights Act lawsuit brought by the Justice Department.
“The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible American is able to vote free of unlawful barriers. Through the agreement entered today, we ensure that no one is denied this sacred right simply because they are a Spanish speaker.”
Under the agreement, Union County – which includes the largely Latino city of Elizabeth, as well as a number of other diverse towns – will implement a “comprehensive Spanish-language elections program.” That means the county clerk will provide all election-related information in both English and Spanish, both online and in-person.
It also means that all ballots will now have to be printed bilingually; currently, according to County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, bilingual ballots are available in approximately half the county under New Jersey state-level requirements.
As reported by TapInto Westfield, the county board of commissioners has already approved funding for the new ballot requirements, and have cooperated with the Justice Department throughout the process.
“In order to ensure the continued access to bilingual paperwork and other documents in voting, the county and the other bodies have agreed to take certain steps,” county counsel Bruce Bergen told TapInto. “There is no wrongdoing that the county has been accused of.”