WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today the filing and successful resolution of its claims against Cibola County, N.M., alleging violations of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The claims were added to an earlier lawsuit against the county alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act. Also included in the settlement are provisions to address violations of a consent decree to resolve the earlier lawsuit.
“By quickly agreeing to implement a comprehensive and effective remedial plan, Cibola County officials have demonstrated a genuine commitment to addressing past problems and protecting the voting rights of all American citizens,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The Department filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico alleging that Cibola County failed to meet its legal responsibilities to ensure that all timely, valid voter registration applications are processed and entered into the computerized statewide voter registration list, that voters’ names are not removed from the list without legal cause, and that provisional ballots are offered to eligible voters whose names are not on the list. A consent decree resolving the lawsuit was simultaneously filed today, which still must be approved by the federal district court. The consent decree also addresses noncompliance with provisions of a previous consent decree to ensure that American Indian citizens of the county, including those who rely in whole or in part on the Keresan or Navajo language, have an equal opportunity to participate in all phases of the electoral process. The decree requires the county to implement procedures that will ensure compliance with federal law and permit the Justice Department to continue monitoring elections in the county.
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial language minority citizen voter population provide all voting information and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. Cibola County is required by Section 203 to provide such information and assistance in Keresan and Navajo to voters who need it to participate effectively in the electoral process. The NVRA requires that the county promptly process all valid, timely voter registration applications and prohibits the county from removing a voter’s name from the voter registration list solely on the basis of the person’s failure to vote. Under HAVA, the county must offer a provisional ballot to any person whose name is not on the voter registration list, but who believes that he or she is registered and eligible to vote in an election for federal office.
The Civil Rights Division vigorously enforces compliance by each jurisdiction covered under the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act, as well as compliance with the NVRA and HAVA. Since 2002, the Division has brought more lawsuits to enforce the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act than it brought in the preceding 26 years combined. This is the eighth claim brought by the Civil Rights Division under HAVA since HAVA’s requirements went into effect three years ago, and the seventeenth under the NVRA.
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 (800) 253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.