FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, JULY 6, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES VOTING RIGHTS LAWSUIT
WITH YAKIMA COUNTY, WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into a consent decree with Yakima County, Washington, settling allegations that the county had violated the voting rights of Spanish-speaking voters.
Federal law requires that jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population provide certain voting materials, such as ballots, registration or voting notices, forms, instructions or other materials, in the minority language as well as in English. According to determinations made by the Census Bureau, Yakima County must provide these materials in Spanish. The government’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court, alleged that the county failed to produce adequate or complete translations or advise Spanish-speaking voters that translations were available.
"The law requires the county to make these materials available in Spanish and today’s agreement accomplishes that,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The Justice Department remains committed to defending the voting rights of all Americans.”
In announcing the agreement, Assistant Attorney General Acosta and United States Attorney James A. McDevitt praised Yakima County officials for their cooperation and determination to address past problems.
The consent decree, which still must be approved by a three judge federal court, requires that the county take the necessary steps to comply with federal law. It also permits the Justice Department to monitor future elections in Yakima County.
The Civil Rights Division has launched a major initiative to ensure compliance by each jurisdiction covered under the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Since January 2004, the Division has announced agreements protecting Spanish-speaking voters in Suffolk County, New York, and San Benito County, California; Vietnamese-speaking voters in Harris County (Houston), Texas; Navajo and Pueblo voters in Cibola and Socorro Counties, New Mexico; and Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese-speaking voters in San Diego County, California.
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 www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm. <http://www.usdoj.gov>