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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,          

                      Plaintiff,                                     

                         v.                                                              CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:02-CV-738-ORL-22JGG

OSCEOLA COUNTY, FLORIDA;                   
and DONNA BRYANT, Supervisor                
of Elections,                                                     

                     Defendants.                                 

_____________________________________



COMPLAINT

     The United States of America, Plaintiff herein, alleges:

     1.   The Attorney General files this action pursuant to Sections 2, 11(a), 12(d), and 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1973, 42 U.S.C. 1973i(a), 42 U.S.C. 1973j(d), 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6, and 28 U.S.C. 2201.

     2.   The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1345 and 42 U.S.C. 1973j(f).

     3.   Defendant Osceola County is a political subdivision of the State of Florida and exists as a charter county, organized pursuant to the laws of Florida. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. Ann. 125.15 (West 2002), the Board of County Commissioners for Osceola County is included in any quit against the county.

     4.   Defendant Donna Bryant is the Supervisor of Elections of Osceola County. The Supervisor of Elections has responsibilities concerning the administration of voting and elections in Osceola County. Defendant Bryant is a resident of Osceola County, Florida, and is sued in her official capacity.

     5.   According to the 2000 Census, Osceola County has a total population of 172,493 persons, of whom 102,792 (59.6%) are non-Hispanic white persons, 50,727 (29.4%) are Hispanic persons, and 11,075 (6.4%) are Black persons; and a total voting-age population of 126,279 persons, of whom 79,150 (62.7%) are non-Hispanic white persons, 34,267 (27.1%) are Hispanic persons, and 7,392 (5.6%) are Black persons.

     6.  Many Hispanic persons in Osceola County have suffered and continue to suffer discrimination and bear the effects of that discrimination today, including a history of discrimination and neglect in voting-related activities.

     7.   In conducting elections in Osceola County, Defendants have failed to ensure that all Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice. The actions that contributed to the violation include the following:

        a.   Poll officials have directed hostile remarks to Spanish-speaking voters to discourage them from voting and to make them feel unwelcome at the polls;

        b.   Some Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency were turned away and not allowed to cast a ballot at the 2000 elections. The election practices that led to these problems include the failure of poll officials to communicate effectively with Spanish-speaking voters regarding necessary information about their eligibility to vote, voter registration status, identification requirements, and polling place changes and assignments;

        c.   Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency are unable to obtain voting assistance at certain polling places because polling places are not staffed with bilingual poll officials. Despite knowledge of the needs of limited English proficient Hispanic citizens, Defendants have failed to recruit, appoint, train, and maintain an adequate pool of bilingual poll officials capable of providing Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency with effective language assistance;

        d.   Some Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency have been unable to obtain Spanish language assistance from poll officials at polling places staffed with bilingual poll officials because Defendants have failed to provide adequate training and to notify the Spanish-speaking population of the availability of bilingual assistance; and

        e.  Some Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency have had difficulty voting because election materials have not been translated into Spanish. Despite their knowledge of the needs of limited-English proficient voters, Defendants have failed to translate into Spanish the ballot, information related to casting a ballot on election day, polling place changes, voter registration cards, letters to voters regarding registration issues, voter assistance information, and information on Osceola County's elections internet site.

     8.  Some Spanish-speaking voters have requested that poll watchers and other voters assist them in casting their ballots because they were illiterate in English. Osceola County did not permit these individuals to provide assistance to these voters and they did not receive any assistance from other person.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

     9.   Plaintiff hereby realleges and incorporates by reference 1-8 above.

     10.   Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits defendants from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure" which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of Hispanic citizens to vote. 42 U.S.C. 1973.

     11.   Defendants' actions described in 6-8 have resulted in Spanish-speaking citizens having "less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice." 42 U.S.C. 1973.

     12.   Unless enjoined by this Court, defendants will continue to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, by enforcing standards, practices, or procedures that deny limited-English proficient Hispanic citizens an opportunity to participate effectively in the political process on an equal basis with other members of the electorate.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

     13.   Under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6 ("Section 208"): "Any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability or inability to read or write may be given 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.

     14.   Defendants' failure to allow voters the assistors of their choice as described above in Paragraph 8, constitutes a violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6.

     15.   Unless enjoined by this Court, Defendants will continue to violate Section 208 by failing to provide Osceola County's voters with the opportunity to receive assistance from persons of the voters' choice.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff United States prays for an order:

     (1)   Declaring that Defendants have violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973 because they have provided Spanish-speaking citizens with "less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice":

     (2)   Declaring that Defendants have not allowed Osceola County's voters their assistors of choice, in violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6;

     (3)   Enjoining Defendants, their agents and successors in office, and all persons acting in concert with them, from violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by providing Spanish-speaking citizens with "less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice", 42 U.S.C. 1973;

     (4)   Enjoining Defendants, their agents and successors in office, and all persons acting in concert with them, from not allowing Osceola County's voters their assistors of choice, in violation of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6;

     (5)   Requiring Defendants to devise and mplement a remedial plan to ensure that Osceola County's Hispanic citizens with limited-English proficiency are able to participate in the political process on an equal basis with other members of the electorate, in compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973;

     (6)   Requiring Defendants to devise and implement a remedial plan to ensure that Osceola County's voters are able to have their assistors of choice when they cast their ballots, in compliance with Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6; and

     (7)   Requiring the Defendants to publicize effectively the remedial plans and programs addressing the Section 2 and 208 violations enumerated herein to ensure their widespread dissemination to Osceola County's voters.

     Plaintiff further prays that this Court order such additional relief as the interests of justice may require, together with the costs and disbursements in maintaining this action.

                                                                                        JOHN D. ASHCROFT
                                                                                        Attorney General



                                                                                        _________/s/____________________
                                                                                        RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
                                                                                        Assistant Attorney General
                                                                                        Civil Rights Division



                                                                                        _________/s/____________________
                                                                                        Paul I. Perez
                                                                                        United States Attorney


                                                                                        _________/s/____________________
                                                                                        JOSEPH D. RICH
                                                                                        Chief, Voting Section



                                                                                        _________/s/____________________
                                                                                        REBECCA J. WERTZ
                                                                                        TIMOTHY F. MELLETT
                                                                                        Attorneys, Voting Section
                                                                                        U.S. Department of Justice
                                                                                        Civil Rights Division
                                                                                        950 Pennsylvania Avenue
                                                                                        Voting Section, 1800G
                                                                                        Washington, D.C. 20530
                                                                                        (202) 307-6262

General Information Voting Section
Contact
Toll-free - (800) 253-3931
Telephone - (202) 307-2767
Fax - (202) 307-3961
Email - voting.section@usdoj.gov

By letter to the addresses below:

Mailing Contact
United States Postal Service mail (including certified mail and express mail) should be addressed to:

Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Room 7254 - NWB
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Deliveries by overnight express service (such as Airborne, DHL, Federal Express or UPS) should be addressed to:

Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Room 7254 - NWB
1800 G St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Redistricting Census Information
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