Federal judge orders 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish-language ballots in 2020

The order by Chief Judge Mark Walker came after a preliminary injunction in a case brought forth by voters who were educated in Puerto Rico and lacked proficiency in English.


                            Federal judge orders 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish-language ballots in 2020

Thirty two Florida counties have been ordered by a federal judge to provide ballots in Spanish starting next year. If they fail to comply, they would be violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965. According to the Palm Beach Post, the order came after a preliminary injunction in a case brought forth by voters who were educated in Puerto Rico and lacked proficiency in English.

Chief Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida Gainesville Division wrote in a Friday ruling that "compliance with this Order is not optional. This Court will not hesitate to use every tool the law provides to enforce this Order," Fox News reports.

A voting machine welcomes people to insert their ballots in three different languages English, Spanish, and Creole as Miami-Dade election officials go through the steps to check voting machines for accuracy at the Miami-Dade Election Department headquarters on October 13, 2010, in Doral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 

According to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, it is prohibited to conduct "English-only elections for those citizens — yes, citizens — educated in Puerto Rico in Spanish." Judge Walker ordered that starting with Florida's primary election scheduled for March 17, 2020, the 32 counties in question must provide voters with ballots in Spanish.

A previous injunction in the case stated that counties must provide sample ballots in Spanish for the November 2018 election. That said, the latest order also requires that if any election is held between now and the March 2020 primary, it must feature similar sample ballots for those who do not understand English.

Ex-felons register to vote at the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office on January 08, 2019 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 

At the same time, the judge recognized promises by the current Florida administration to take steps on their own to provide Spanish language ballots. A process of creating new rules has already been initiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee in that the state is required to provide voters with Spanish-language ballots in time for the 2020 presidential election.

While Walker said both DeSantis and Lee "should be lauded" for their efforts, he maintained the injunction was necessary to ensure Spanish-speaking citizens were taken care of until the new rules are in place. The latest order also safeguards that such communities are covered in case the new rules are not sufficiently compliant with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.