WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Hale County, Texas, alleging violations of the rights of minority-language voters under two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Department simultaneously filed a consent decree resolving the lawsuit against the county.
“The right to vote is a fundamental guarantee for all American citizens,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement agreement continues our unprecedented commitment to ensuring voting access to every citizen.”
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population must provide all voting materials, information, and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. According to determinations made by the Census Bureau, Hale County must provide these resources in Spanish. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, charged that the county failed to do so.
The Voting Rights Act also assures voters who need assistance in voting, such as those unable to see or read the ballot, the right to receive that assistance from a person of their choice, other than the voter’s employer or union representative. The complaint charged the county with preventing Spanish-speaking limited English proficient voters from securing such assistance.
The consent decree, which still must be approved by a three-judge federal court, requires that the county take the necessary steps to comply with federal law. It also permits the Justice Department to monitor future elections in Hale County.
"I applaud the officials of Hale County in acting with the Department of Justice and the Texas Secretary of State to insure that all voters will have effective access to the polls," said Richard Roper, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
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 2002, the Civil Rights Division has filed more minority language cases than in the entire previous history of the Voting Rights Act. As a result of this work and other lawsuits brought under the substantive provisions of the Voting Rights Act, since 2002, the Department has brought a majority of all cases it ever has filed to protect Hispanic voters, and the first cases ever filed to protect the voting rights of Filipino and Vietnamese voters. During this time period, the Division has filed successful minority language lawsuits across the country, with cases in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.
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 http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.