NATIONAL NEWS

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

May 10, 2023, 2:38 PM

FILE - A sign in Spanish stands near voters as they cast their ballots at stations inside the La Fa...

FILE - A sign in Spanish stands near voters as they cast their ballots at stations inside the La Familia Recreation Center in the Baker neighborhood Nov. 3, 2020, south of downtown Denver. 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. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

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.

National News

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs poses in Los Angeles, Monday, July 15, 2024. Tubbs says he is r...

Associated Press

Former mayor known for guaranteed income programs launches bid for California lieutenant governor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Michael Tubbs is running for lieutenant governor of California, returning to politics four years after voters in his Central Valley hometown ousted him as one of the country’s youngest mayors following his reboot of guaranteed income programs for the poor that made him a star. The 2026 campaign, announced Wednesday, offers […]

1 hour ago

FILE - A logging truck drives on the Interstate 5 bridge that spans the Columbia River and connects...

Associated Press

Aging bridges in 16 states will be improved or replaced with the help of $5B in federal funding

Dozens of aging bridges in 16 states will be replaced or improved with the help of $5 billion in federal grants announced Wednesday by President Joe Biden’s administration, the latest beneficiaries of a massive infrastructure law. The projects range from coast to coast, with the largest providing an additional $1.4 billion to help replace two […]

2 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a 2024 Prosperity Summit Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in North Las Vegas, ...

Associated Press

Biden aims to cut through voter disenchantment as he courts Latino voters at Las Vegas conference

LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Joe Biden is trying to shore up support among disenchanted voters key to his reelection chances as he meets Wednesday with members of a Latino civil rights organization in the battleground state of Nevada. Biden is set to deliver an address to the UnidosUS annual conference in Las Vegas, where […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: World stocks slip on report US might tighten technology curbs on China

Global stocks fell Wednesday as technology shares sank after a report said the U.S. plans tighter import controls on companies that share chip-making technology with China. London’s FTSE 100 edged 0.1% higher to 8,169.24 as data showed the inflation rate remained steady at the Bank of England’s 2% target in June. That hit hopes for […]

3 hours ago

FILE - The Mirage Hotel and Casino is seen in Las Vegas, on May 3, 2018. Gambling ends Wednesday, J...

Associated Press

After reshaping Las Vegas, The Mirage to be reinvented as part of a massive Hard Rock makeover

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Mirage is about to vanish from the Las Vegas Strip. Gambling ends and the doors close Wednesday at the iconic tropical island-themed hotel-casino that opened in 1989 with a fire-spewing volcano outside, and Siegfried & Roy’s lions and dolphins inside. Frenzied final days have seen standing-room crowds wagering to win […]

6 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives during the second day of th...

Associated Press

The stepped-up security around Trump is apparent, with agents walling him off from RNC crowds

MILWAUKEE (AP) — On the floor of the Republican National Convention Tuesday evening, vice presidential candidate JD Vance greeted and shook hands with excited delegates as he walked toward his seat. It was a marked contrast from former President Donald Trump, who entered the hall a few minutes later and was separated from supporters by […]

7 hours ago

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