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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 02-21698
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA;
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY BOARD OF
BETTY T. FERGUSON, DORRIN D.
ROLLE, DR. BARBARA M. CAREY-
SHULER, GWEN MARGOLIS, BRUNO
A. BARREIRO, REBECA SOSA,
JIMMY MORALES, KATY SORENSON,
DENNIS C. MOSS, JAVIER D.
SOUTO, JOE A. MARTINEZ, DR.
MIRIAM ALONSO, AND NATACHA
SEIJAS, Members of the Board
of County Commissioners; and
DAVID C. LEAHY, Supervisor of
The United States initiated this litigation on this date challenging certain actions of
Miami-Dade County, Florida (hereinafter "the County") in administering the November 7, 2000
Presidential election. The United States alleges that, in that election, the County, through its
employees and agents, prevented certain Creole-speaking Haitian-American voters with limited
ability to understand English from securing assistance at the polls necessary for their effective
participation in the voting process in violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 42
U.S.C. 1973aa-6. Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act entitles "[a]ny voter who requires
assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability or inability to read or write" to "assistance by
a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer or agent of that employer or
officer or agent of the voter's union." 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6.
This action follows an extensive investigation by the United States of the County's voter
assistance practices during the 2000 election. It is the United States' position that the evidence
gathered during its investigation demonstrates, among other things, that at several precincts, the
Defendants denied certain Creole-speaking Haitian-American voters assistance from persons of
their choice, permitting only pollworkers to assist voters; that oftentimes, the only pollworkers
available to provide assistance did not speak Creole and limited their assistance to voter
demonstrations outside the voting booths; that in those circumstances where the Defendants
permitted voters assistance from persons of the voters' choice, they limited the scope of the
assistance assistors of choice could provide; that many of these precincts limited such assistance
to reviewing sample ballots with the voters and standing next to them during pollworker
demonstrations; that this limited assistance was of little value to voters once they entered the
voting booth; that the Defendants failed to instruct properly County pollworkers on their duty to
permit voters assistance from persons of their choice; and that some pollworkers believed voters
were not entitled to assistance from persons of their choice and carried out their duties
Despite the Defendants' alleged failure to adhere to Section 208 in these circumstances,
the United States found no evidence that such noncompliance was the result of a discriminatory
purpose. To the contrary, the United States recognizes that the Defendants have demonstrated an
appreciation for the unique difficulties encountered by Creole-speaking voters and a willingness
to enact measures designed to make the political process more accessible to these voters. In
recognition of the Defendants sizeable Haitian-American population, the Miami-Dade Board of
County Commissioners passed ordinances in 1999 and 2000 mandating that Haitian-Creole
ballot translations be available in voting booths located at precincts where "significant" numbers
of Haitian-American voters vote. (1) Moreover, the Defendants
have been cooperative during the Department of Justice's investigation of this matter and have
demonstrated from the beginning of the investigation an interest in resolving any violations
of federal law.
The Defendants deny any violation of the Voting Rights Act as alleged by the United
States. Moreover, the Defendants are committed to ensuring that voters with limited ability to
understand English, including Creole-speaking Haitian-American voters, get the assistance
necessary for their effective participation in the voting process. The Defendants are dedicated to
ensuring that all future elections in Miami-Dade County operate in a manner consistent with
Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.
The parties have negotiated in good faith and have agreed to entry of this Consent Order
as an appropriate resolution of the claims alleged.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
1. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1973j(f) and 28 U.S.C. 1345.
2. Defendants are hereby enjoined from denying
Haitian-American voters with limited English-speaking proficiency assistance from persons
of the voters' choice in violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42
U.S.C. 1973aa-6. Defendants shall ensure that Haitian-American voters with limited
English-speaking proficiency are permitted assistance from persons of the voters' choice
and that such assistance shall include assistance in the voting booth, including interpreting
the ballot and instructing voters on how to select the voters' preferred candidates.
3. The Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections
shall take the following steps to prevent violations of Section 208 and to redress the alleged harm
caused Creole-speaking Haitian-American voters during the 2000 Presidential election:
(A) Modify training for all County pollworkers
to require instruction on how to handle requests for language assistance:
(i) The Supervisor of
Elections shall incorporate into the training programs that currently exist for
pollworkers - clerks, assistance clerks, and inspectors - training specifically directed
at effectuating the provisions of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including
specific instruction that voter assistance under Section 208 can include assistance in
the voting booth.
(ii) Pollworkers shall
also be instructed to be cognizant of the special needs of voters with difficulty understanding English. Rather than
waiting for such voters to ask for assistance, pollworkers shall be instructed to offer assistance to
those who appear to need it.
(iii) On election day, precinct
clerks stationed at the Haitian precincts shall instruct their workers to inform voters of
their option under County ordinances, where the option is available, to vote at vote-a-matics
stocked with voting forms printed in Haitian-Creole. (2)
(B) Consistent with the provisions of
the Florida Election Reform Act concerning voter education, (3) the
County shall create and implement a voter training program designed to provide Creole-speaking
Haitian-American voters with "a working knowledge of the voting process." The County shall
make that program available prior to all elections involving countywide, statewide, and
federal offices from the date of entry of the Consent Order through December 31, 2005.
(C) Make best efforts to assign at least
one bilingual English/Creole-speaking pollworker responsible solely for assisting Creole-speaking
voters to each of the polling places containing Haitian precincts.
(i) The pollworkers
fulfilling this role shall receive special instruction in conjunction with training for
election inspectors. Such pollworkers shall be instructed to usher Creole-speaking voters
appearing to need assistance through the voting process - e.g., ensure that Creole-speaking
voters understand how to sign in upon arriving at the voting precinct, where to go to vote,
and how to vote and inform Creole-speaking voters that they are entitled to assistance from
persons of their choice.
(ii) In order
to appoint the requisite number of Creole-speaking bilingual pollworkers, the Supervisor of
Elections shall solicit the assistance of local organizations comprised predominantly of
Supervisor of Elections shall solicit qualified bilingual English/Creole-speaking pollworkers
through the Haitian-Creole language newspapers that the County currently uses to publicize
voting-related information. In addition, the Supervisor of Elections shall solicit bilingual
pollworkers on two radio programs conducted in Haitian-Creole. Such solicitations shall be
made twice weekly for a period of two weeks beginning the fourth week prior to the vote
hiring and notice requirements shall apply from the date of entry of the Consent Order
through December 31, 2005.
(D) At the polling places containing
Haitian precincts, post a Creole-translated version of the Voter's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
required to be posted at each polling place under Florida Law.
4. The Defendants shall provide all supplies
and facilities necessary for the implementation of this Consent Order.
5. The Supervisor of Elections, or his designee(s),
shall monitor on election day the performance of election officials to ensure that all
election officials are performing their duties in compliance with Section 208 of the Voting
Rights Act. The Supervisor of Elections shall investigate promptly all complaints of denia
of assistance of choice, shall record such complaints in a log separately maintained for this
purpose, and shall take prompt action to ensure that all limited English-speaking proficient
voters receive the assistance to which they are entitled under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.
The United States shall be permitted to inspect and copy the above-cited complaint log at any and all
reasonable times upon reasonable notice to Defendants.
6. The parties agree that to assist in carrying out
the purposes of this Consent Decree, the United States will be permitted to monitor elections
in Miami-Dade County from the date of the entry of this Consent Decree through December 31, 2005.
(A) The United States will give
timely notice of its intent to monitor a particular election and limit such monitoring to
the "Haitian precincts;"
(B) Department of Justice personnel,
including attorneys and staff members, will be permitted into these precincts for the purpose
of observing the election process; such Department personnel shall not seek to interfere in
any way with the conduct of the election, but will merely observe and report problems to
county election officials for resolution.
7. This Consent Decree shall expire on December 31, 2005.
8. Each party shall bear its own costs and fees.
For the United States of
For Miami-Dade County:
RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General
ROBERT A. GINSBURG
Civil Rights Division
Miami-Dade County Attorney
GUY A. LEWIS
United States Attorney
MURRAY A. GREENBERG
First Assistant County
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Civil Rights Section
Florida Bar No. 644791
JOSEPH D. RICH
BRIAN F. HEFFERNAN
JAMES D. WALSH
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington D.C. 20035-6128
, this _17th__ day of June 2002:
Patricia A. Seitz
United States District
Judge for the Southern
District of Florida
1. Both laws pertain to precincts with a "significant" number
of Haitian voters and grant discretion as to determining what is
"significant" to the Supervisor of Elections. In the past, the
Supervisor of Elections exercised this discretion by designating
certain precincts as having a significant Haitian voting
population based on place of birth information provided by
voters. However, this information has not been available since
1994. In the future, the Supervisor of Elections will make best
efforts to utilize Census and other available data to make
changes to these designations as appropriate.
2. Miami-Dade County law requires Haitian precincts to be
supplied with vote-a-matics containing voting forms printed in
Haitian-Creole. See Miami-Dade County Ordinance Nos. 99-160 and
3. Amended § 98.255, Florida Statutes, provides for
development and implementation of minimum voter education
standards and requires each County to conduct "additional
nonpartisan education efforts as necessary to ensure that voters
have a working knowledge of the voting process." State funding
is provided for such education efforts.