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Judge Asked To Require Spanish-Language Ballots

Sign reading "Vote precinct precinto"
Bobbie O'Brien

A coalition of groups has asked a federal judge to require 32 Florida counties -- including a handful of Tampa Bay area ones -- to offer Spanish-language ballots and other election materials, the latest move in a legal battle that started last year. 

The request, filed Friday in federal court in Gainesville, seeks a preliminary injunction requiring Spanish-language ballots and materials for elections starting Aug. 1 in the targeted counties.

In September, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker required those counties to provide Spanish-language sample ballots but did not require Spanish-language ballots and other assistance, saying there wasn’t enough time before the November elections.

The motion for a preliminary injunction filed Friday seeks to require Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee to direct elections supervisors to take the additional steps.

“In summary, plaintiffs seek an order preliminarily enjoining defendant Secretary Lee to issue directives and take all other measures necessary to ensure that all election materials in the counties --- including but not limited to paper ballots, voting machine ballots, sample ballots, absentee ballots and envelopes, voting guides, voting instructions, polling place signage, election-related websites, and registration materials --- are provided in Spanish as well as English and to ensure that bilingual workers provide oral assistance with voter registration, absentee voting, and voting at early voting sites and polling places for all upcoming elections on and after August 1, 2019 until this case is finally resolved,” the motion said.

The case has 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. It seeks to ensure they are not denied the right to vote in Florida.

The counties targeted in the suit 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 counties.