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February 28, 12

NEWS / Justice Department Announces Agreement Protecting the Rights of Spanish-speaking Voters in Colfax Co

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today an agreement with Colfax County, Neb., that requires the county to provide election materials and information in Spanish in order to comply with provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

“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 General for the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s agreement ensures that Colfax County’s Spanish-speaking citizens will be able to effectively participate in the electoral process. I commend Colfax County election officials for their earnest cooperation and keen efforts to resolve this matter.”

The consent decree with Colfax County, which must still be approved by the federal District Court in Nebraska, provides for a comprehensive language assistance program for Spanish-speaking limited English proficient voters, including the dissemination of election-related materials and information in Spanish. The consent decree requires the presence of trained bilingual election officials in all polling places in the city of Schuyler, Neb., on Election Day, and that all Spanish-language signage be displayed as prominently as the English-language signage at those polling places. As required under the consent decree, Colfax County has already hired a bilingual elections coordinator to assist the county clerk in implementing the Spanish language elections program. The county must also establish an advisory group of interested community members and organizations to assist the county in determining how to most effectively provide election materials, information and assistance to Spanish-speaking voters. The consent decree further provides that federal observers may monitor Election Day activities in polling places in Schuyler.

The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions determined by the Census Bureau to have a substantial population of minority-language citizens, such as Colfax 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.




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