WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the City of Boston, Massachusetts that resolves the Department's recently filed lawsuit alleging certain discriminatory treatment of minority-language voters and general non-compliance with the minority-language requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Act mandates that jurisdictions with a substantial population of minority-language voters, as determined by the Census Bureau, provide certain voting materials in specified languages. Under the settlement agreement, Boston will provide voting materials (e.g., ballots, registration notices, forms, instructions, etc.) in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese. Boston has also agreed to provide necessary assistance to minority-language voters, and to train poll workers in how to comply with the requirements of federal law, including not interfering with voters' ballot choices.
"The City of Boston is to be congratulated for agreeing to resolve this matter in a constructive and forward-looking manner," said Bradley J. Schlozman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This settlement represents a significant step toward ensuring that all eligible citizens can exercise their right to vote on election day."
As part of the settlement, Boston further agreed to a court order appointing federal examiners until 2008, thereby authorizing federal observers to monitor polling places in the city. The Civil Rights Division committed to share with the city the information gathered by the observers so as to enhance the city's compliance with the agreement. This portion of the agreement must, as a matter of law, be approved by a three-judge federal panel.
The Civil Rights Division has launched a major initiative to ensure compliance by each jurisdiction covered under the minority-language provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Since 2001, the Division has brought more lawsuits to enforce the minority-language provisions of the Act than were brought in the preceding 26 years combined. This case also marks the Department's first case under the general anti-discrimination provisions of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to protect Vietnamese Americans, and it is only the second section 2 case to protect Asian American voters.
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 Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.