WASHINGTON (July 5, 2011) – The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced today an agreement with Alameda County, Calif., to ensure compliance with provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require the county to provide election materials and information in Spanish and Chinese.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and language barriers should never keep citizens from accessing that right,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney for the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s agreement ensures that Alameda County’s Spanish and Chinese-speaking citizens will be able to cast an effective ballot and successfully participate in the electoral process. I congratulate Alameda County for their earnest cooperation in resolving this matter.”
The consent decree with Alameda County, which must still be approved by the federal district court, provides for a comprehensive language assistance program for Spanish and Chinese limited English proficient voters, including the dissemination of election-related materials and information in Spanish and Chinese. The consent decree requires the presence of trained bilingual election officials at polling places on election day.
Further, Alameda County must make sure that all Spanish and Chinese-language signage is displayed as prominently as the English-language signage at the polling places throughout the county. The consent decree also establishes that Alameda County will develop an advisory group of interested community members and organizations that will assist the county in determining how to most effectively provide election materials, information, and assistance to Spanish and Chinese-speaking voters. The consent decree also provides that federal observers may monitor election day activities in polling places in Alameda County.
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions determined by the Census Bureau to have a substantial population of minority-language citizens, such as Alameda County, provide voting materials and assistance in the covered minority language as well as in English. Enforcement of the protections of the Voting Rights Act is a significant priority for the Civil Rights Division.
Information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/voting/. Complaints may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.