WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Brazos 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. "By promptly agreeing to implement an extensive remedial plan, Brazos County officials have demonstrated a real commitment to addressing past problems and protecting the voting rights of their minority-language citizen voters."
The Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population must provide all voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern 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, of 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 must still be approved by a 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 Brazos County.
Since 2002, the Civil Rights Division has filed more minority language cases than in the entire previous history of the Voting Rights Act. The majority of its language cases filed since 2002 have protected the rights of limited English speaking Latino citizens, in contrast to most of the cases brought in the first 25 years after the 1975 minority language amendments to the Act. 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.