IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF
|UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
||CIVIL ACTION NO. CV-98-156 BB/LCS|
|BERNALILLO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO;
BERNALILLO COUNTY BOARD OF
COMMISSIONERS; TOM RUTHERFORD,
Chairperson of the Bernalillo
County Board of Commissioners;
STEVE GALLEGOS, LES HOUSTON,
J. SEWARD, KEN SANCHEZ, Members of the
Board of Commissioners;
and JUDY WOODWARD, Bernalillo County Clerk,
The United States initiated this action pursuant to Sections 2, 12(d), and
203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §1973, 42 U.S.C.
§1973j(d), 42 U.S.C. §1973aa-1a, and 28 U.S.C. 2201, alleging violations of the
Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the
Constitution arising from Bernalillo County's election practices and procedures
as they affected Native American citizens of the county, including those Native
American citizens who rely in whole or in part on the Navajo language.
The claim under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act ("Section 203") must be
heard and determined by a court of three judges in accordance with the
provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1973aa-2 and 28 U.S.C. §2284.
Plaintiff alleged in its complaint that various election practices and
procedures of defendants unlawfully deny or abridge the Voting Rights of Native
American citizens residing in Bernalillo County. The challenged practices
concern the failure of defendants in particular areas to implement effective
bilingual election procedures, as required by the Voting Rights Act, in the
following areas: dissemination of election information, voter registration,
voter registration cancellation procedures, absentee voting, language assistance
at the polls, and training of polling officials.
Defendants do not contest that more than five percent of voting age Navajos,
within the Caņoncito Navajo Reservation, speak Navajo and are limited-English
proficient, and further agree that the illiteracy rate of such persons as a
group is higher than the national illiteracy rate. 57 Fed. Reg. 43213
(September 18, 1992). Such determinations subject Bernalillo County to the
requirements of Section 203(c) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.
§1973aa-1a(c), and thus the defendants must furnish oral instructions,
assistance and other information relating to voter registration and voting, in
the Navajo language.
Defendants do not contest that in past elections the county has failed in
particular areas to make the election process as accessible to Native American
citizens as it was to non-Native American citizens as is required by Section
203, Section 2, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Bernalillo
County agrees in the future to comply with Section 203, Section 2, and the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
This Court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this
litigation. This agreement is final and binding between the parties and
their successors in office regarding the facts, claims, and issues raised in the
Complaint and in this document.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:
- Defendants, their agents and successors in office, and all other persons
acting in concert or participation with them, are hereby permanently enjoined
from failing to comply with the requirements of Sections 2 and 203 of the
Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the
- It is the intent of Bernalillo County to make all phases of the election
process as accessible to the Navajo population of Bernalillo County as they
are to the remainder of the county's population. Therefore, Bernalillo
County shall provide information, publicity, and assistance in the Navajo
language in voter registration, voter registration cancellation, absentee
voting, early voting, procedures at the polls including translation of the
ballot, and training of polling officials/translators. Bernalillo
County, in consultation with the United States and the Caņoncito Chapter, has
developed a manual of procedures for incorporating the Navajo language in
elections that addresses the type of information, publicity and assistance to
be provided and the manner in which they will be provided (copy attached).
- To ensure the dissemination of election-related information to the Navajo
speaking population of Bernalillo County, and to make the election process
equally accessible to Native American citizens, Bernalillo County, by March
16, 1998, shall employ a Native Language Coordinator (hereinafter
"NLC"). The NLC shall be bilingual in Navajo and English. The
primary responsibility of the NLC, a full-time employee of Bernalillo County,
shall be to carry out the county's Navajo language election procedures,
publicity and assistance, including assisting the county carry out the
procedures in the manual referenced in paragraph two.
- Bernalillo County shall establish a travel, supply, and telephone call
budget for the NLC which shall be sufficient to cover expenses incurred in
carrying out the NLC's duties, obligations, and responsibilities.
- Poll officials selected to work each majority Native American election
precinct in Bernalillo County shall be, if at all possible, persons who are
bilingual in the Native American language and in English. The County
shall use its best efforts to secure said personnel. In any precinct
where registered Native American voters comprise at least five percent of the
voters in the precinct, there shall be a number of such bilingual poll
officials or translators sufficient to accommodate the voters who need to use
the Native American language to effectively cast their ballots. The
county shall assess the need for language assistance in these precincts after
each election and, in accordance with Paragraph 11, adjust the number of
bilingual assistors up or down as is efficient to provide effective language
assistance. Tapes of Native American language translations of all the
information on the ballot shall be made available to the poll officials prior
to the election.
- At locations on the Caņoncito Reservation, the NLC shall conduct the
training of poll officials and any other election related personnel who will
be working at the Caņoncito precinct.
- Within thirty days of an election, the county will establish a satellite
election office for two days each week on the Caņoncito reservation. The
NLC shall consult with the tribal representative for space to set up the
- The satellite office shall have the necessary materials and personnel
available during regular office hours to allow an individual to cast an
absentee ballot. A person may apply for, receive, and cast an absentee
ballot all on the same day during a single visit to the satellite election
- Nothing in this Decree shall preclude Bernalillo County from contracting
with other governmental agencies to carry out the terms and conditions
specified herein. However, should the county exercise this option,
defendants herein shall nevertheless maintain responsibility for compliance
with the terms and conditions herein.
- To assist in the effectiveness of this Agreement and to protect the
Fifteenth Amendment rights of citizens of Bernalillo County, the appointment
of federal examiners for elections in the county is authorized pursuant to
Section 3(a) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1973(a), for the period of
- Bernalillo County is designated pursuant to Section 3(c) of the Voting
Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1973a(c) for the period of this Agreement regarding
changes that may affect the county's compliance with the Voting Rights Act as
set forth in paragraphs two through nine.
- The parties to this agreement and the NLC will be in contact semi-annually
for the duration of this order to discuss the effectiveness and efficiency of
the county's actions in complying with the Voting Rights Act. Bernalillo
County has the authority to eliminate or modify any aspect of its program if
it is unproductive or inefficient in furthering the goals of this decree,
subject to the requirements listed in paragraph 11 above.
- This Agreement shall remain in effect through June 30, 2003, unless
plaintiff moves the court for good cause shown to extend this Agreement.
The Court shall retain jurisdiction of this case to enter further relief or
such other orders as may be necessary for the effectuation of the terms of this
agreement and to ensure compliance with Sections 2 and 203 of the Voting Rights
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§1973, 1973aa-1a, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of
Entered this __22__ day of __April__, 1998.
UNITED STATES OF
JOHN J. KELLY
BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney
TIMOTHY F. MELLETT
Attorneys, Voting Section
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
1 Civic Plaza
Albuquerque, NM 87102
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
BUREAU OF ELECTIONS
ELECTION INFORMATION PROGRAM
OVERVIEWBernalillo County, New
Mexico contains a portion of four Indian Reservations or Pueblos: The Sandia
Pueblo to the north, Isleta Pueblo to the south, and the Caņoncito Navajo
chapter and the Laguna Reservation on the western boundary of the
county. Maps are attached to more exactly define and identify Indian
lands. (Map is not available in HTML format.)
The City of
Albuquerque also contains a significant number of Native American voters.
Bernalillo County is subject to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act,
42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a. The act requires that information which is
provided in English about voter registration, including voting notices, forms,
instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the
electoral process, including ballots, be provided in the minority language to
the extent that it is needed allowing minority members to be effectively
informed of and participate in the electoral process. Where the language
of the applicable minority group is oral or unwritten, oral information and
instruction in the appropriate native language is required.
- Sandia Pueblo: This pueblo extends across the northern
portion of Bernalillo County. It contains all or portions of three
voting precincts: 6, 86 and 567. There are no pueblo residents or
households in precinct 567. There are approximately 60 households in
precincts 6 and 86.
- Isleta Pueblo: This pueblo extends across the southern
portion of Bernalillo County. Within its boundaries, lie precinct 93
and a portion of precinct 552. However, there are no residents
living in the precinct 552 portion of the pueblo. For the 1966
general election, there were 672 registered voters in precinct 93.
- Caņoncito: A chapter of the Navajo Nation, located on the
western edge of Bernalillo County. It is identified as voting
precinct 31. For the 1996 general election, there were 317
registered voters in precinct 31.
- Laguna: This reservation is actually two parcels, divided
by Caņoncito Chapter. We do not believe there are any households
within the Laguna Reservation that are in Bernalillo County.
However, should this not be the case, those residents will be afforded the
same services as described herein.
establishes a comprehensive Native American Election Information Program
(NAEIP) to disseminate election related information and services to the Native
American population of Bernalillo County. It details the procedures for
voter registration, voter registration cancellations, absentee and early
voting, training of election day poll officials, language assistance at the
polls, and for the dissemination of information about elections. The
program is administered by the Native Language Coordinator (NLC), a full-time
Bernalillo County employee. This manual also describes coordination
between the NLC, tribal representatives, and the Native American Voting Rights
Office under the New Mexico Secretary of State.
- The NLC will work under the supervision of a
designated deputy Clerk of Bernalillo County.
- The NLC will be trained by the county clerk in all
aspects of the Election process.
- The NLC will maintain currency with state and
federal statutes relating to the election process.
- The NLC must be fluent in English and the Native
- The NLC's work will be funded by county resources
and the county will provide for transportation and supplies needed in
carrying out the NLC's duties and responsibilities in implementing the
PROCEDURESThe NLC is responsible
for the administration of the Bernalillo County NAEIP.
- COORDINATION WITH STATE AND OTHER
- The NLC will maintain direct contact with the State NAEIP
representatives to assure coordinated services and avoid duplication of
- The NLC will work, as far as practicable, with counterparts
in Valencia and Sandoval Counties, to coordinate election activities and
Tewa translation for the Sandia and Isleta Pueblos.
- The NLC will work, as far as practicable, with the
counterparts in Socorro, McKinley, and San Juan Counties, to coordinate
election translation for the Caņoncito chapter.
- The NLC will work, as far as practicable, with the Navajo
Election Administration, in an effort to achieve uniformity and accuracy
in the translation of election material.
- TRIBAL REPRESENTATIVES
It is the desire of the county to have an individual in the tribe
that the county may contact about election-related issues. In
addition, the county would like to have a tribal member to be available on a
permanent basis who can explain the voting procedures in case the NLC is not
available at the moment.
- The deputy county clerk, or other designated representative,
will request the Caņoncito chapter president to identify and/or appoint
one individual to serve as tribal representative for communications
between the county and the chapter about voting and elections. The
vice president of the Navajo chapter will serve as the representative in
the event that a separate tribal representative is not chosen or is
vacated. The tribal representative must be proficient in both
English and Navajo.
- The deputy county clerk, or other designated representative
will request each pueblo governor whose lands are wholly or in part of
Bernalillo County, to identify and/or appoint one individual to serve as
tribal representative for communications between the county and each
pueblo about voting and elections. The tribal representative must
be proficient in both English and the native language of the tribe.
- The NLC will familiarize tribal representatives with the
election process, including absentee and early voting, voter
registration and purge process, statutory qualifications to hold
elective office; election related deadlines, election day activities,
and poll official duties.
- The NLC will serve as the county's point of contact with the
pueblo or chapter for election related matters. Telephone
inquiries from tribal representatives are encouraged and treated as
official government business.
- The following election-related material and announcements, if
made available in English, shall be translated into Tewa and Navajo,
made available on audio or video tape, and provided to the appropriate
- Election calendar for the year (by January 15 of each
- State, county, and where applicable, school district
election proclamations (10 days after receipt);
- Constitutional amendments and other issues on the ballot,
along with a brief description of each (within 30 days of the date
the English text is determined). Care must be used in wording
the brief description so as to avoid even the hint or suggestion as
to how the listener/viewer should vote on the issue;
- Statutory qualifications and requirements (age,
residency, etc.) for candidates to be on the ballot (60 days prior
to statutory filing deadlines);
- Instructions for filling out absentee ballot
applications, and explaining the absentee voting process and
deadlines (30 days before absentee balloting begins);
- Details on early voting and voting satellite locations in
Bernalillo County (30 days before registration begins);
- The date voter registration closes for each election (30
days before registration closes);
- The candidates for each office and their political
parties for each election (within 10 days after the ballot is
- Explanation of voting procedures, to include the
operation of voting machines and how to cast a write-in ballot (30
days before the election).
- All election related translations might be made by a state or
county employee fluent in the appropriate language, or by a tribal
- It is important that translations be accurate. The
county will provide an opportunity for the tribal representative to
review and comment on any material translated.
- If a dispute as to the accuracy of a given translation
cannot be promptly resolved by mutual agreement between county
officials and Native American leaders, the Office of the New Mexico
Secretary of State and the United States Department of Justice will
be consulted about the dispute.
- The county shall provide separate recordings for each
election-related subject matter and should not exceed ten (10) minutes
- The NLC should have the tapes played during at least one
chapter or pueblo meeting. The NLC should also encourage the
pueblo or chapter house to maintain a library of current available
- The NLC, and if possible, the tribal representative
should be present when taped are played at pueblo or chapter
meetings and answer questions which may be raised.
- The NLC, should make available county-owned tape-playing
equipment to the site in case equipment is not available at the
- Upon request, the county shall make tapes and material
available to governmental entities, which have an interest in the
Bernalillo County NAEIP.
- The county shall keep translations archived for five years.
- DISSEMINATION OF ELECTION RELATED
- The County shall coordinate publicity efforts with the state
NAEIP office and the tribal representatives.
- The NLC will work with Bernalillo County Public Affairs to
offer public service announcements in Navajo and/or Tewa to local
ratio/TV stations. Potential broadcasting material includes any of
the tapes made pursuant to Section III. The NLC will request that
announcements be made at a time calculated to reach the largest possible
chapter and/or pueblo audience.
- The NLC will work with Bernalillo County Public Affairs to
identify and provide public service notices to publications, which are
tailored to the pueblos and Canoņcito chapter. Notices may be
printed therein in the language traditionally used by the
publications. The frequency of paid announcements shall be subject
to available financial resources.
- During the sixty (60) days preceding an election, the NLC
will plan and publicize meetings at sites convenient to voters of the
chapter and pueblos. At the meetings, the NLC, tribal
representatives, and other trained personnel will make oral
presentations using Navajo or Tewa, as appropriate, with the concurrence
of tribal officials. Presentations should incorporate audio and
visual aids as appropriate, and should include:
- Statutory qualifications for candidates to hold office,
(e.g., age, residency requirements, etc.). If anyone expresses
an interest in running for an elected office, explain procedures for
getting on the ballot, (e.g., petition signatures, filing fee,
- Voter registration procedures, to include voter
registration cut-off dates. Voter registration forms should be
- Sample ballots, when they are available. Go over
offices to be filled, to include names and party affiliation of each
candidate. Review each ballot issue, and the speaker should be
careful to avoid suggesting how the voter should vote;
- Detail the absentee voting process, to include procedures
on how a voter may obtain an absentee ballot, how to make a write-in
vote, and how the ballot should be returned;
- Detail the early voting process, to include the location
of satellite polling locations; and
- An actual voting machine, or enlarged photograph of a
voting mcahine should be used to instruct how the voter is to cast a
- On the weekend preceding an election in which the pueblo or
chapter is voting, the NLC and/or tribal representative shall travel
through the reservation and let the residents of the chapters and
pueblos know the day and date of the election, where the polling
location is situated and hours of operation.
- Election related announcements, materials, tapes and other
election information should be made available to the high schools
attended by Native American students in the county to familiarize
students with all phases of the election process.
- VOTER REGISTRATION
- The NLC shall conduct an active voter registration program in
coordination with each Pueblo governor, Navajo chapter president, or
other tribal officials.
- Work with community leaders, to identify chapter or
pueblo residents to receive training on voter registration and who
will serve as a point of contact for members who may wish to
register to vote. The chapter house or pueblo community center
must be kept supplied with voter registration forms.
- At least annually, conduct a special voter registration
drive. This requires coordination with tribal leaders for
adequate space and publicity for the drive.
- Assure that an adequate supply of voter registration
forms are available in community facilities. This may include
schools, post office, chapter house, pueblo government buildings,
- The NLC shall provide each tribal representative with current
voter registration lists for the appropriate Bernalillo County
precinct(s) within the tribal boundary, and shall encourage each tribal
representative to establish regular hours for registration at set
locations on the reservations. Tribal leaders shall be encouraged
to post the time(s) and location(s) at each chapter house or pueblo
community center and to announce this information at each tribal
- The NLC shall assess, on an on-going basis, the effectiveness
of the voter registration program.
- ABSENTEE AND EARLY VOTING
- The NLC will ensure that "Requests for Absentee Ballot" forms
are supplied to the tribal representatives, pueblo governors, Navajo
chapter presidents and other tribal officials who may have frequent
contact with residents.
- The opportunity to cast an absentee or early ballot will be
publicized by announcements, with the concurrence of tribal officials,
during chapter or pueblo meetings attended by the NLC and by posting
notices at conspicious places such as the pueblo community center,
Navajo chapter house, post office on reservation, etc.
- The county shall provide an opportunity for Native American
citizens who are registered to vote to cast absentee or early ballots by
ensuring that the NLC attends the last tribal meeting prior to the
deadline for returning the ballots for each election so that the
eligible persons may obtain, and if they desire, cast absentee ballots
in person at that time.
- The NLC shall be authorized to deliver absentee ballots, to
witness absentee ballots, and to accept completed absentee ballots from
eligible voters for delivery to the county clerk.
- POLLING PLACE OFFICIALS AND INTERPRETERS
- The county shall determine the number of bilingual assistors
necessary in the precinct to provide effective language information and
assistance to Native American voters. This determination will
focus on the election precincts where registered Native American voters
comprise at least five percent of the voters of the precinct. The
county will make up a list of all election precincts where Native
American voters comprise at least five percent of the registered voters
of the precinct. This list will be changed whenever new census
data or other, equally reliable data become available.
- After each election the need for language assistance in each
precinct where Native American voters comprise at least five percent of
the registered voters will be assessed. This assessment will
include discussions with the poll official and/or translators at those
sites, the NLC, and any other interested persons to determine the
frequency with which a Native American language was used during the
election, and how the voting experience could be made more effective for
voters who need to use the Native American language.
- The county shall ensure that fully trained poll officials and
translators are present on election day for each election precinct where
Native American voters comprise at least five percent of the registered
voters of the precinct. The NLC shall consult with tribal
representatives and other apppropriate tribal officials to identify
qualified individuals to work at the polls.
- The NLC will schedule a special training session with poll
workers and interpreters selected to work the polls on election
day. The tribal representative, the poll officials and interpreter
shall be notified of the training session scheduled at the pueblo or
Navajo chapter at least one week before the scheduled training.
Topics and procedures to include in the training sessions include:
- Setting up the polls;
- Opening the voting machine and preparing it for voting;
- Ensuring that the person requesting to vote is listed on
the voter registration list. This will include instructions on
how to resolve problems if the person requesting to vote does not
appear on the voter registration list;
- Updating voter registration lists with name changes,
address changes, etc.;
- Conducting the election;
- Providing instruction on how to translate offices,
candidates, and referenda;
- Providing the Native American language translation for
each office, candidate, and referenda;
- Closing the polls;
- Getting voting machine tallies;
- Reporting precinct results;
- Securing the voting machine; and
- Providing rules applicable to poll watchers and
- The NLC will provide polling officials with a telephone
number should problems arise on election day.
- Polling officials selected to work the pueblo/chapter
precincts on election day must be fluent in English and Tewa or Navajo,
- Polling officials will be instructed on procedures for giving
assistance to voters. Poll officials should be instructed to ask
individuals whether they need ballot translation or other assistance in
their native language.
- ELECTION DAY PROCEDURES
- The NLC will be assigned a county vehicle and a radio or
mobile telephone for election day. Problems reported to the county
from the voting precincts at the pueblo and Caņoncito chapter will be
relayed to the NLC for appropriate action. Additionally, the NLC
will visit each precinct on tribal land at least once on election day to
ensure that voters are obtaining information and assistance in the
Native American language when it is needed.
- Polling officials shall keep a record of all persons who
requested to vote, but were not allowed to vote. This record should
include each voter's name, address, the reason the person thought he or
she was eligible to vote at that site, and the reasons for not
permitting the person to vote.
- A list of persons not permitted to vote will be provided to
appropriate tribal officials. Registration forms will be provided
at the polls, and these persons will be added to the voter registration
list as soon as practical.
- THE VOTER REGISTRATION ROSTER PURGE
- State law in accordance with federal law under the National
Voter Registration Act controls the voter registration purge
process. When a purge is authorized and implemented, the following
additional procedures shall apply for precincts located on Indian lands;
- The NLC will inform tribal leaders of the pending purge
and ask that validation or re-registration procedures be explained
at tribal meetings. The NLC may make the presentations with the
concurrence of tribal officials.
- Tewa and Navajo language audio tapes describing the purge
process and validation or re-registration procedures shall be made
available to each pueblo community center or Navajo chapter house.
- The NLC shall provide to the tribal representative a list
of voters in the precinct that have been identified to be
purged. The tribal representative will be requested to contact
persons on the list and notify them of the fact of the pending purge
and procedures for validating their registration or re-registration.
- At the close of the purge period, the NLC will meet with
Tribal officials to review the list of purged voters and ascertain
what further action, if any, should be taken to validate or
- In addition to copies of audio/video tapes the NLC whall keep
track of records that include:
- On a monthly basis, the number of registered voters in
each precinct where Native American voters comprise at least five
percent of the registered voters, and the number of newly registered
voters in each precinct.
- Time and media of each broadcast, if available, or
- Following a purge, the total number of voters purged, by
- Following each election, the total number of absentee
ballots cast and the number of those voting at an early voting
- By July 1, 1999, and July 1st of each succeeding odd numbered
year thereafter, the NLC will compile a report of efforts taken during
the preceding twelve-month period in furtherance of the county
NAEIP. Conclusions may be drawn concerning the effectiveness of
the various aspects of the program.
- The NLC will attempt to determine the cost of conducting the
- ADJUSTMENTS TO PROGRAM:
- It is the goal of Bernalillo County to make the entire
election process fully and effectively accessible to our Native American
citizens according to federal law. Regular and on going
reassessment of the county NAEIP is necessary by responsible
participants. Meetings with tribal officials shall occur at least
once each year to discuss the NAEIP.
- The county, in consultation with the NLC, state NAEIP
officials, tribal officials, and federal officials, shall evaluate the
county NAEIP on an on going basis. When adjustments to the program
are suggested, they will be made only after full discussion among the
interested parties, and where necessary to ensure that Native American
voters are able to enjoy equal access to all phases of the political
- The Deputy County Clerk will submit, prior to their
implementation, any agreed upon changes in this manual to the United
States Department of Justice for preclearance as provided in the consent
decree, United States v. Bernalillo County.