Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2005
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston for violations of the Voting Rights Act. The suit alleges that the city’s election practices discriminate against citizens of Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese descent in violation of section two, and that the city has failed to provide Spanish language information to voters who need it in violation of section 203 of the Act.

Section two of the Voting Rights Act is the principal federal protection against any voting “standard, practice, or procedure” that results in a denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color, or membership in a language minority group. The complaint alleges that in Boston, the city’s elections standards, practices and procedures resulted in: treating limited English proficient Hispanic and Asian American voters with hostility; refusing to permit limited English proficient Hispanic and Asian American voters to be assisted by an assistor of their choice; improperly influencing, coercing or ignoring the ballot choices of limited English proficient Hispanic and Asian American voters; failing to make available bilingual personnel to provide effective assistance and information needed by minority language voters; and refusing or failing to provide provisional ballots to limited English proficient Hispanic and Asian American voters.

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions, including Boston, to provide all election information and materials in Spanish as well as English. That obligation, which is based on a determination by the Census that Boston has more than 10,000 voting-age citizens who speak Spanish, but who do not speak English well enough to participate in the political process, has been in effect in Boston since 1992. The complaint alleges that despite repeated notifications and attempts by the Justice Department since 1992 to encourage the city’s voluntary compliance with section 203, the City of Boston has failed to place Spanish-speaking personnel at most polling places where they were needed. As a result, many of Boston’s Spanish-speaking voters have been unable to cast a fully informed ballot. The city’s response to minority language voters who have been unable to locate their correct polling place was to direct such individuals to the city’s English-only website polling site locator.

“The violations of section two of the Voting Rights Act that we discovered in Boston are deeply disturbing, and there is no place for such misconduct in 2005,” said Bradley J. Schlozman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Furthermore, despite having had an unequivocal obligation-for 13 years-to provide Spanish language information to voters who need it under section 203, the city of Boston has consistently fallen well short of the mark.”

The Civil Rights Division has launched a major initiative to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. With the complaint against Boston, the Justice Department during this Administration has filed as many cases under the minority language provisions of the Act as had been filed in the entire prior history of the Act. These have included the first suits in Voting Rights Act history to protect the rights of Filipino and Vietnamese voters, as well as suits to protect minority language voters in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington State. The Department also has taken formal enforcement actions to protect Navajo and Pueblo voters in New Mexico and Vietnamese voters in Texas. Under its Section two enforcement program, the Department also has filed recent suits this year challenging discriminatory election practices in Florida and Mississippi.

To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at <>