WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today reached a successful resolution of a lawsuit against the city of Springfield, Mass., regarding allegations that the city violated the rights of minority voters under two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Under today’s settlement, the city has agreed to a court order providing full relief.
“The right to vote is fundamental for all American citizens,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This enforcement action under the Voting Rights Act opens the door to equal voting rights for all the citizen voters of Springfield.”
The Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population must provide all voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, charged that Springfield failed to do so.
The Voting Rights Act also assures voters who need assistance in voting, such as those unable to see or read the ballot, the right to receive that assistance from a person of their choice, other than the voter’s employer or union representative. The complaint charged the city with preventing limited English proficient Hispanic voters from securing such assistance.
The consent agreement, which still must be approved by a federal court, requires Springfield to take the necessary steps to comply with federal law. It also permits the Justice Department to monitor future elections in the city.
The agreement was reached following a Monday hearing in which the Department presented evidence from 40 Springfield citizens establishing a violation of the Voting Rights Act. At the close of the hearing, the court advised the parties of its inclination to order temporary relief requested by the Civil Rights Division unless the city agreed to a permanent plan by noon today. Today’s agreement followed.
The Civil Rights Division has launched a major initiative to ensure compliance with all of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act with respect to all citizens of all racial groups in all areas of the United States. Since 2002, the Civil Rights Division has filed three-fourths of all cases to protect the right of voters needing assistance in the history of the Act, and 60 percent of all minority language cases it has filed in the entire previous history of the Voting Rights Act. As a result of this work and other lawsuits brought since 2002, the Department has brought a majority of all cases it ever has filed under the substantive provisions of the Voting Rights Act to protect Hispanic and Asian voters, and the first cases ever filed to protect the voting rights of Filipino and Vietnamese voters. This is the second recent case the Division has filed in Massachusetts, and follows a successful lawsuit on behalf of Hispanic, Chinese and Vietnamese voters in Boston. The Division has filed additional successful Voting Rights Act lawsuits across the country, with cases in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. There are also active complaints in Ohio & Mississippi.
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 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.