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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
CONSENT DECREE (MODIFIED),
HALE COUNTY, TEXAS;
DIANE WILLIAMS, the
COUNTY CLERK, in her official
the HALE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
The United States of America filed this action pursuant to Sections 208 and 203 of
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-6, 42 U.S.C. §
1973aa-1a, and 28 U.S.C. § 2201, over violations of Sections 208 and 203
arising from Hale County’s election practices and procedures as they affect
Spanish-speaking citizens of the County. The Court has jurisdiction over this
matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 1973j(d) & (f).
Hale County is subject to the requirements of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act,
as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-6. Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act provides
that “[a]ny 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. Hale County, through its employees and agents,
prevented certain Spanish-speaking limited English proficient voters from securing assistance
at the polls necessary for their effective participation in the voting process, in
violation of Section 208.
Hale County is covered under Section 203 to provide Spanish-language written
materials and assistance to voters. The State of Texas, including Hale County,
has been subject to the requirements of Section 203 since 1975. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 1973aa-1a(c); 40 Fed. Reg. 41,827 (Sept. 9, 1975). The County has been under
notice of its obligations under Section 203 since 1975, and most recently the
Department of Justice has sent the County information regarding the bilingual
election requirements of the Voting Rights Act on July 26, 2002 and August 31, 2004.
According to the 2000 Census, Hale County had a total population of 36,602 persons, of
whom 17,532 (47.9%) were Hispanic. The total citizen voting-age population was 25,532,
of whom 10,663 (41.8%) were Hispanic. The number of Hispanic voting-age citizens who
were limited English proficient was 2,625 (10.3%).
Defendants have not complied with the requirements of Section 203 for Spanish-speaking
citizens residing in Hale County by failing to train poll workers on how properly to
provide assistance to Spanish-speaking LEP voters, failing effectively to
recruit qualified bilingual poll workers, and failing to provide in an
effective manner certain election-related information to Spanish-speaking
To avoid protracted and costly litigation, the parties have
agreed that this lawsuit should be resolved through the terms of this Consent
Decree (the “Decree”). Accordingly, the United States and Defendants hereby
consent to the entry of this Decree, as indicated by the signatures of counsel
at the end of this document. The parties waive a hearing and entry of
findings of fact and conclusions of law on all issues involved in this matter.
Defendants admit that they have not fully complied with all of the provisions of Sections
208 and 203; however, Defendants are committed to comply fully with all of such
requirements in future elections. Defendants stipulate that each provision of this
Consent Decree is appropriate and necessary.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:
- Defendants, their agents, employees, contractors, successors, and all
other persons representing the interests of the Defendants are hereby PERMANENTLY
- prohibiting “[a]ny voter who requires assistance to vote by reason
of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write . . . [to] be given
assistance by a person of the voter’s choice, other than the voter’s employer
or agent of the employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.” 42 U.S.C. §
- failing to provide in Spanish “any registration or voting notices,
forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to
the electoral process, including ballots,” that they provide in English, as
required by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a(c).
- The terms of this Decree apply to all federal, state, and local
elections administered by the County, including County-run elections for city,
school district, and other political subdivisions of the County. Whenever
Defendants enter into an election services contract with any other entity,
political subdivision, or political party to conduct an election on behalf of
that entity, Defendants shall require such other entity to agree to abide by
the terms of this Decree as if such entity were a party to this Decree with the
United States, and consistent with the responsibility of each such entity to
comply fully with Sections 208 and 203.
- Defendants shall ensure that Spanish-speaking voters with limited
English-speaking proficiency are permitted assistance from persons of the voter’s
choice, other than employers or agent of the voter’s union, and that such assistance
shall include assistance in the voting booth, including interpreting the ballot and
instructing voters on how to select the voter’s preferred candidates.
- Defendants shall ensure that in cases where a poll worker is the limited
English proficient voter’s assistor-of-choice, all poll workers shall make certain
that the voter receive such assistance from a trained bilingual poll worker rather
than any poll worker who does not speak Spanish fluently.
Translation and Dissemination of Election-Related Materials
- All information that is disseminated by Hale County in English about
“registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials
or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots,” 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a(c),
shall also be provided in the Spanish language. Defendants shall ensure that both English
and Spanish language election information, materials, and announcements
provided by Hale County are made equally available.
- Defendants shall ensure that Spanish-language election information,
materials, and announcements are provided to the same extent as they are provided
in English. Spanish-language information shall be distributed in newspapers,
radio, Internet, and/or other media that exclusively or regularly publish or broadcast
information in Spanish. These announcements need not be identical in
all respect to English-language announcements, but shall be in the form,
frequency, and media best calculated to achieve notice and understanding equal
to that provided to the English-speaking population and to provide
substantially the same information.
- Signs in both English and Spanish shall be posted prominently at polling
places stating that Spanish-language assistance is available. At sites without
bilingual staff, signs in both English and Spanish shall be posted that explain
how voters can obtain Spanish-language assistance.
- Spanish-language assistance shall be available at all locations where
election-related transactions are conducted. Trained bilingual (Spanish/English)
election personnel shall be available to answer voting-related questions by telephone
without cost during normal business hours and while the polls are open on Election Days.
- Defendants shall recruit, hire, and assign election officials able to
understand and speak Spanish fluently to provide assistance to Spanish-speaking
voters at the polls on Election Days. The County shall survey its employees to
identify personnel who speak Spanish fluently and, to the extent such employees
can be made available to provide assistance, allow and encourage such employees
to serve at the polls on Election Day. As part of its obligation to ensure that
entities on whose behalf the County conducts elections are fully compliant with
Section 203 in their elections, the County shall request that each entity for
which it conducts elections perform similar surveys of its employees. The
County and the entities for which it conducts elections shall only hire
bilingual poll workers whose fluency in the Spanish language has been confirmed
by a fluent Spanish speaker.
- The County shall also invite eligible members of the Advisory Group,
discussed below, to serve as poll officials and to encourage other bilingual
voters to do so.
- In addition to the requirements of state law,
- Any polling place in which there are 100-249 registered voters
with Spanish surnames shall be staffed by at least one bilingual election official.
- Any polling place in which there are 250-499 registered voters with
Spanish surnames shall be staffed by at least two bilingual election officials.
- Any polling place in which there are 500 or more registered voters
with Spanish surnames shall be staffed by at least three bilingual election officials.
- Defendants shall employ bilingual personnel, trained in Spanish-language
election terminology, who shall be on call and available to travel to an election
precinct not staffed by a bilingual poll worker to provide any necessary assistance to any
Election Official Training
- Prior to each election, in addition to any required state or county training,
the County shall train all poll officials and other election personnel present at the
polls regarding the following:
- The provisions of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, including the
legal obligation and means to make Spanish-language assistance and materials
available to voters; the requirement that poll officials be respectful and
courteous to all voters regardless of race, ethnicity, color, or language abilities
and to avoid derogatory comments; and to offer to all eligible persons the opportunity
to cast a provisional ballot consistent with state law and the Help America Vote Act.
In addition to the general training for poll officials, the County shall train all
bilingual poll officials on Spanish-language election terminology, voting instructions,
and other election-related issues. The County shall maintain a record of which poll
officials attend training sessions, including the time, location, and training personnel
The provisions of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, including the legal obligation
to allow anyone other than the voter’s employer or an agent of the voter’s union to
assist him or her at the polls.
- Defendants, upon receipt of complaints by voters, whether oral or
written, shall investigate expeditiously any allegations of poll worker hostility
toward Spanish-speaking and/or Hispanic voters in any election. The
results of the investigation(s) conducted by the Defendants shall be reported
to the United States. Where there is credible evidence that poll workers have
engaged in inappropriate treatment of Spanish-speaking and/or Hispanic voters,
Defendants shall remove the poll workers.
- The County shall employ an individual to coordinate the County’s
bilingual election Program (“the Coordinator”) for all elections within the County.
The County shall provide that individual with support sufficient
to meet the goals of the Program. The Coordinator shall be able to understand,
speak, write, and read fluently both Spanish and English. The Coordinator’s
responsibilities shall include coordination of the translation of ballots and
other election information; development and oversight of Spanish publicity
programs, including selection of appropriate Spanish-language media for notices
and announcements; training, recruitment, and assessment of Spanish-language proficiency
of bilingual poll officials and interpreters; and managing other aspects of the
- The County shall establish an Advisory Group, not to exceed twelve members,
to be chaired by the Coordinator, to assist and to inform the bilingual program.
- Each member of the Hale County Commissioners Court, including the County
Judge, shall appoint two members to the Advisory Group. The County Clerk of Hale
County shall appoint two members. Members shall serve for a period of one year
each, and the Advisory Group shall be re-constituted each year.
- The Coordinator shall invite participation at all meetings of the
Advisory Group from all interested individuals and organizations that work with
or serve the Spanish-speaking community in the County, to determine how most
effectively to provide elections materials, information, and assistance to
Spanish-speaking voters and to fill any gaps in public awareness about the
County’s bilingual election program due to past failures to provide accessible
election-related information to Spanish-speaking voters. The County
shall maintain a roster of such persons together with the telephone and
facsimile numbers or e-mail addresses of each, and shall provide to each such
personal notices it provides to the Advisory Group.
- The Coordinator shall ask each member of the Advisory Group and any
attendees at Advisory Group meetings to provide names of potential bilingual poll
- The Advisory Group shall meet at least monthly in 2006 and at least
quarterly in 2007 and thereafter as the Advisory Group deems necessary. The
Coordinator shall provide notice of all planned meetings to each member,
including the time, location, and agenda for the meeting, at least fourteen
days in advance, although the members of the Advisory Group may waive or
shorten this time period in writing.
- Within five business days following each meeting, the Coordinator
shall provide a written summary to allmembers and to the Commissioners Court
and County Clerk of all the discussion and any decisions reached at the meeting.
- If the County Clerk or the Coordinator decide not to
implement an Advisory Group suggestion or a consensus cannot be reached
respecting such suggestion, a written record of the suggestion and the reasons
for not implementing it shall be made and maintained by the Coordinator for a
period of at least two years.
- The County shall provide to all members of the Advisory
Group copies in English and Spanish, of all election information,
announcements, and notices that are provided to the general public and shall
request that the members of the Advisory Group and any other interested parties
share these materials with their clients, constituents, and/or members.
Federal Examiners and Observers
- To monitor compliance with and ensure effectiveness of
this Decree, and to protect the Fourteenth Amendment rights of the citizens of
Hale County, the appointment of federal examiners is authorized for Hale County
pursuant to Section 3(a) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973a(a), as
long as the Decree is in effect.
- Defendants shall recognize the authority of federal observers to
observe all aspects of voting conducted in the polls on Election Day, including
the authority to view County personnel providing assistance to voters during voting,
except where the voter objects.
Evaluation of Plan
- The parties recognize that regular and ongoing reassessment may be
necessary to provide the most effective and efficient Spanish-language Program.
Defendants shall evaluate the bilingual Program after each election to
determine which aspects of the bilingual Program are functioning well; whether
any aspects need improvement; and how to affect needed improvements. The Program
may be adjusted at any time upon joint written agreement of the parties.
Retention of Documents and Reporting Requirements
- During the duration of this Decree, the County shall make and
maintain written records of all actions taken pursuant to this Decree and
shall produce such records to the United States upon its request.
- During the duration of this Decree, at least thirty days before
each County-administered election held in the County, Defendants shall provide
to counsel for the United States:
- the name, address, and precinct designation of each polling place;
- the name and title of each poll official appointed and assigned to
serve at each polling place as of the date the materials are sent;
- a designation of whether each poll official is bilingual in English
and Spanish; and
- an electronic copy of the voter registration list to be used in such elections.
- Within thirty days after each election, Defendants shall provide to
counsel for the United States any updated report regarding changes in items (a)-(d)
above that occurred at the election, and provide information about all complaints
the County received at the election regarding language or assistance issues.
- This Decree is final and binding between the parties and their
successors in office regarding the claims raised in this action. This Decree
shall remain in effect through August 6, 2007, and the parties further
stipulate that the Decree shall be extended through December 31, 2009, if
Defendants remain under a continuing federal statutory obligation to provide
minority language materials and assistance after August 6, 2007.
- 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 208 and 203
of the Voting Rights Act.
- Each party shall bear its own costs and fees.
Agreed to this _27th_ day of __February__, 2006.
AGREED AND CONSENTED TO:
For the United States of America
ALBERTO R. GONZALES
WAN J. KIM
JAMES M. TIREY, OF COUNSEL
Assistant Attorney General
Hale County Attorney
Civil Rights Division
500 Broadway Street
Plainview, Texas 79072
Telephone: (806) 291-5306
Facsimile: (806) 291-5308
RICHARD B. ROPER
United States Attorney
E. SCOTT FROST
Hale County Judge
Assistant United States Attorney
500 Broadway Street, # 100
State Bar No. 07488080
Plainview, Texas 79702
Telephone: (806) 472-7566
Telephone: (806) 291-5214
Facsimile: (806) 472-7394
Facsimile: (806) 296-7786
Hale County Clerk
JOHN TANNER, Chief, Voting Section
500 Broadway Street
Plainview, Texas 79702
Special Litigation Counsel
Telephone: (806) 291-5205
JOSHUA L. ROGERS, Trial Attorney
Facsimile: (806) 291-9810
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW - NWB-7254
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: (202) 514-8201
Facsimile: (202) 307-3961
JUDGMENT AND ORDER
This Court, having considered the United States’ claim under Sections 208 and 203 of
the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-6 and 42
U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a, and having determined that it has
jurisdiction over this claim, has considered the terms of the Consent Decree,
hereby enters the relief set forth above and incorporates those terms herein.
ENTERED and ORDERED this _27th__ day of _April__, 2006.
JERRY F. SMITH
UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE
MARY KLOU ROBINSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
SAM R. CUMMINGS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE