Napa County memorandum of agreement

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Document Type: 
Settlement/Consent Decree


This Memorandum of Agreement (the "Agreement"), effective this 31st day of May

2016, is entered into by and between the United States of America (the "United States") and the

County of Napa, California, and the Napa County Assessor -Recorder-County Clerk, ex officio

Registrar of Voters (ROV), in his official capacity (collectively hereafter the "County") ..

On April 7, 2016, the United States informed the County by letter of its intent to file a

Complaint pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10503 ("Section 203").

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has jurisdiction to hear

·cases brought to enforce the provisions of Section 203 in the County, and the federal court would

have jurisdiction of an action brought by the United States to enforce any of the terms of this

Agreement, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345 and 52 U.S.C. §§ 10308(d) & (f) and

10504. The cause of action under Section 203 must be heard and determined by a court of three

judges, pursuant to 52 U.S.C. § 10504 and 28 U.S.C. § 2284.

The County has been covered continuously under Section 203 to provide election-related

materials and assistance in Spanish since October 13, 2011. See 76 Fed. Reg. 63,602 (Oct. 13,

2011). Since October 19, 2011, the Department of Justice has directly notified Napa County

election officials of the County's obligations under Section 203. The determination of the

Census Bureau that Napa County is covered by Section 203 for Spanish is final and

non-reviewable. See 52 U.S.C. § 10503(b)(4).

According to the 2010 Census, Napa County had a total population of 136,484, of whom

44,010 (32.2%) were Hispanic. The total voting-age citizen population of the county was

86,960, of whom 14,490 (16.7%) were of Hispanic origin. Of the voting-age citizens of

Hispanic origin, 4,510 (31.1 % ) were limited English proficient.

The United States alleges that the County has not complied with the requirements of

Section 203 for Spanish-speaking citizens residing in the County. Specifically, the United

States alleges that the County has failed to provide in an effective manner certain election-related

information to Spanish-speaking voters and has failed to provide an adequate number of

bilingual poll workers trained to assist Spanish-speaking voters at its voter assistance centers and

on Election Day.

To avoid protracted and costly litigation, the parties have agreed that this dispute should

be resolved through the terms of this Agreement. Accordingly, the United States and the

County, without admitting liability, hereby agree to the terms of this Agreement, as indicated by

the signatures of counsel and ROV at the end of this Agreement. Each party shall bear its own

costs and fees.

Accordingly, it is hereby AGREED that:

1. The County, its agents, employees, contractors, successors, and all other persons

representing the interests of the County hereby agree 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. 52 U.S.C. § 10303(±)(4).

2. The terms of this Agreement will apply to all Federal, State, and local elections

that are administered by the County. Whenever the County enters into an election services

contract with any other entity, political subdivision, or political party to conduct an election on

behalf of that entity, the County shall require such entity to agree to abide by the terms of this

Agreement for that portion of the entity located within Napa County as if such entity were a

party to this Agreement with the United States, and consistent with the responsibility of each

entity to comply fully with Section 203.

Translation and Dissemination of Election-Related Materials

3. The County shall provide the following election-related materials in English and

Spanish, such that each is bilingual with English and Spanish translations on the same document:

(a) the official ballot; (b) vote-by-mail applications and envelopes; (c) sample pamphlets; (d)

provisional ballots and envelopes; (e) voter registration cards and applications; (f) voting

instructions; (g) any voter information guides, lists of polling places and voter assistance centers,

or pamphlets provided by the County; and (h) notification of elections and polling place changes.

4. The County shall make every effort to ensure that all other Spanish language

election information, materials, and announcements not listed in Paragraph 3 above are made

equally available and provided to the same extent as they are provided in English. Spanish

language information shall be distributed in newspapers, radio, the Internet, and other media that

exclusively or regularly publish or broadcast information in Spanish to the local population.

The County shall consult with the Advisory Group, discussed in paragraphs 19-21 below, to

ensure that dissemination of these Spanish language annoilncements 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.

5. The County shall utilize a professional translator to prepare translated materials.

The translator shall work in coordination with the bilingual election program Coordinator and the

Advisory Group described in paragraphs 21-23 to ensure that bilingual materials are complete, ·

accurate, linguistically competent and accessible for limited-English proficient voters. The

translated materials must include effective translations that most accurately convey the meaning

of the original English-language information.

6. Electronic voting machines shall offer the readily apparent options of a Spanish

ballot, and any audio version.of the ballot on such machines shall be available at least in English

and Spanish.

7. All election information and materials posted or displayed in the polling places

and voter assistance centers shall be translated in both English and Spanish, with the translations·

either on the same posting or display, or in near proximity to each other.

Spanish-Language Assistance

8. The County shall ensure that Spanish-language assistance shall be available at all

locations where election-related transactions are conducted, including voter assistance centers.

Trained bilingual (fluent in both Spanish and English) poll workers located at the County's main

election office shall be available to answer voting-related questions by telephone without cost

during normal business hours, while voter-assistance centers are open, and while the polls are

open on election days. The County may coordinate the provision of such services with other

governmental or non-governmental entities that conduct elections.

9. The County shall recruit, hire, train, and assign poll workers able to understand,

speak, write, and read Spanish fluently to provide effective assistance to Spanish-speaking voters

at the polls on election days and at voter assistance centers.

10. The County shall invite eligible members of the Advisory Group, discussed

below, to serve as poll workers and to encourage other bilingual voters to do so.

11. Each polling place in Napa County shall be staffed by at least one bilingual poll

worker. The parties may by written agreement adjust these requirements in light ofreliable

information that the actual need for language assistance in a particular polling place is less or

greater than this requirement.

12. The County shall staff all voter assistance centers, including any drive-through

locations, with at least one bilingual poll worker. Pursuant to paragraph 3, the County shall

make the document setting out the location of all voter assistance centers and related information

available in a bilingual format, and within that format prominently display the dates bilingual

assistance is available for each. The parties may by written agreement adjust these

requirements in light of reliable information that the actual need for language assistance in a

particular voter assistance center is less or greater than this requirement.

13. The County shall alert voters that Spanish-speaking poll workers are available to

provide assistance, and shall make such poll workers available when voters choose these workers

as their assistors of choice. Signs in both English and Spanish shall be posted prominently at all

polling places and voter assistance centers stating that Spanish language assistance is available.

Such signs shall be printed in large, easily visible lettering, and English and Spanish signs shall be

posted adjacent to each other. At any voter assistance centers without bilingual staff, signs in

both English and Spanish shall b~ posted that explain how voters can obtain Spanish-language


14; The County shall also provide at least one English-Spanish election glossary ·

(such as, for example, the Spanish-English Election Terms Glossary prepared by the United

States Election Assistance Commission, available at

at each polling place and voter assistance center.

Election Official Training

15. Prior to each election, in addition to any required State or County training, the

County shall train all poll workers and other election personnel present at the polls and voter

assistance centers regarding 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, and the requirement that poll workers avoid inappropriate comments and be respectful

and courteou~ to all voters regardless ofrace, ethllicity, color, or language abilities.

16. In addition to the above general training for poll officials and other election

personnel, the County shall train all bilingual poll officials on Spanish language election

terminology, voting instructions, and other election related issues. The County shall include in its

training of all bilingual poll officials the following election-related materials: the official ballot;

· sample pamphlets; provisional envelopes; vote-by-mail applications and envelopes; voter

registration cards and applications; voting instructions; any voter information guides or pamphlets

provided by the County; notification of elections and polling place changes; and polling place

signage. · The County shall also provide Spanish translations of election-related information,

materials, and announcements applicable to elections in the County that are provided by the State

of California. The County shall also provide all bilingual poll officials with a copy of the

Spanish-language election terminology glossary referenced in paragraph 14.

1 7. The County shall maintain a record of the time and location of training personnel

and the materials involved with bilingual assistance training. The County shall also record the

names of poll officials who attended such training and their assigned polling places. The County

shall provide a copy of the training materials to the United States upon request.

Response to Complaints about Poll Workers

18. The County, upon receipt of complaints by voters, whether oral or written, shall

investigate expeditiously any allegations of poll worker discrimination against Spanish-speaking

and/or Hispanic voters in any election. The results of the investigation(s) conducted by the

County shall be reported to the United States within 45 days. Where there is credible evidence

that a poll worker has engaged in inappropriate treatment of Spanish-speaking or Hispanic

voters, the County shall take appropriate action, including not allowing the person to serve as a

poll worker ..

Spanish Language Election Program Coordinator

19. The County shall designate an individual to coordinate the County's Spanish

language election program ("the Coordinator") for all elections within the County .. The County

shall provide the Coordinator, within the confines of budgetary constraints, 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 workers; and managing other aspects of the program.

Advisory Group

20. The ROV shall establish an Advisory Group to assist and inform the Spanish

language election program. The Advisory Group shall be open to any interested person or

organization. The Advisory Group shall meet at least once during the time before the June

2016 primary election, at least twice during the six months before the June 2018 primary

election, at·least twice during the five months before the November 2016 and 2018 general

elections, and at least once during the two months after the November 2016 and 2018 general

elections. By written agreement, the Parties may adjust the Advisory Group's meeting schedule

after consultation with the Advisory Group. The Coordinator shall provide notice of all

planned meetings, including the date, time, location, and agenda, at least 14 days in advance of

such meeting, although members of the Advisory Group may agree to waive or shorten this time

period as necessary.

21. Within five business days after each meeting, the Coordinator shall provide a

written summary of the discussion and any decisions reached at the meeting to all Advisory

Group members and to the ROV. If the ROV decides not to implement an Advisory Group

suggestion or a consensus cannot be reached respecting such suggestion, the ROV shall provide

to the Advisory Group through the Coordinator, and maintain on file,. a written statement of the

reasons for rejecting such suggestion. The County shall maintain a roster of Advisory Group

members and interested members of the public who attend an Advisory Group meeting. The

County shall maintain a log of the public who request to receive future notices together with the

telephone and facsimile numb~rs or e-mail addresses of each, and shall provide to each interested

party notices it provides to the Advisory Group.

22. The Coordinator shall transmit to all members of the Advisory Group, in English

and Spanish, all election information, announcements, and notices that are provided or made

available to the electorate and general public, with the exception of materials that are not

reasonably transmittable either in hard copy or in electronic format, and request that they share

such information with others.

Federal Monitors

23. To assist in monitoring compliance with and ensure effectiveness of this

Agreement, and to protect the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of the citizens of

Napa County, the County .shall permit Department of Justice personnel to monitor training, early

voting and election day activity. The County shall recognize the authority of federal monitors

to observe all aspects of voting conducted in the Voter Assistance Centers and at polls during

early voting and on Election Day, including the authority to view County personnel providing

assistance to voters during voting, except where the voter objects.

June 7, 2016 Primary Election

24. For the June 7, 2016 primary election only, the County is exempt from the

requirements of Paragraph 3.

25. · For the June 7, 2016 primary election only, the County is exempt from the

requirement in Paragraph 12 that information regarding Voter Assistance Centers be provided in

a bilingual format on the same document. For the June 7, 2016 election, the County will

include a separate insert in Spanish that includes such information.

26. For the June 7, 2016 primary election, in consideration of the limited time

between the signing of this agreement and date of the election, the parties agree that the County

must make reasonable efforts to comply with the remaining paragraphs of this agreement.

Evaluation of Plan ·

27. The parties recognize that regular and ongoing reassessment may be necessary to

provide the most effective and efficient Spanish language program and to ensure compliance

with the Voting Rights Act. The County shall evaluate the Spanish language assistance

program after each election to determine which aspects of the program are functioning well;

whether any aspects need improvement; and how to affect needed improvements. The County

also shall .evaluate its program to ensure that each polling place is in compliance with the Voting

Rights Act. The program may be adjusted at any time upon joint written agreement of the


28. This Agreement shall terminate on January 31, 2019, provided the parties agree

that County have achieved substantial compliance with the terms of the Agreement for the

previous two election cycles. An "election cycle" refers to all elections administered by the

County during a calendar year.

29. If after the November 2018 general election, or anytime subsequent to that date, the

County's assessments show that they have been substantially complying with all aspects of this

Agreement for the previous, two election cycles and have the intent and means to continue

compliance with Section 203, the County will file a report with the United States demonstrating

substantial compliance with each provision of this Agreement. The County shall include with

any.certification or reports from the Coordinator and the Advisory Group detailing the County's

efforts to comply with the Agreement. The County shall bear the burden of demonstrating that

they have substantially complied with the Agreement and maintained substantial compliance for

the required period.

30. After conferring with the County, the United States, in its good faith discretion, will

determine whether the County has maintained substantial compliance for the requisite election

cycles. A conclusion of substantial compliance may not be unreasonably withheld. If at any

time after the November 2018 election, the parties agree that there is substantial compliance, the

agreement will be terminated.

31. Within 30 days of submission of the information described in paragraph 36

regarding any election conducted throughout the term of this Agreement, the United States shall

notify the County's attorney and the County ROV of any known alleged violation or potential

violation of this Agreement. The United States and the County shall work together in good faith

to remedy as soon as possible any violation of this Agreement. If the County indicates that it does

not have the intent or means to comply with the terms of this Agreement applicable to the

particular election, the United States shall have the right to seek such relief as may be necessary to

enforce the terms of this Agreement.


32. If the County materially fails to comply with the terms of this Agreement, this

Agreement is enforceable in the United States District Court for the Northern District of

California and pursuant to law, and additionally in any such event, the United States may take

any other actions required to enforce Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act in the United States

District Court, including seeking appropriate relief as a substitute for or in addition to

enforcement of this Agreement. Nothing in this Agreement precludes the United States from

taking appropriate enforcement action against the County for any other violations of the Voting

Rights Act that are not the subject of this Agreement.

Retention of Documents and Reporting Requirements

33. Throughout the duration of this Agreement, the County shall make and maintain

written records of all actions taken pursuant to this Agreement. Such written documents and

records shall be made available, upon request with reasonable notice, to the United States.

34. Throughout the duration of this Agreement, at least 15 days before each

County-administered election, the County shall provide to counsel for the United States:

(a) the name, address, and precinct designation of each polling place;

(b) the name and title of each poll worker appointed·and assigned to serve at each


(c) a designation of whether each poll worker is fluent in English and another

language, and an indication of what other languages are spoken by each poll


( d) an electronic copy of the official voter registration list current to be used in

each such election; and

( e) copies of any signs or other written information provided at polling places.

35. Within 45 days after each such election, the County shall provide to counsel for

the United States any updated report regarding changes in the items identified in paragraph 35 as

well as information about all complaints the County received at the election regarding language

or assistance issues pursuant to paragraph 18, by Federal Express or electronically to the

following address:

Voting Section

United States Department of Justice

Civil Rights Division

1800 G Street, N.W., Room NWB-7254

Washington, D.C. 20006

Facsimile: (202) 307-3961

Other Provisions

36. This Agreement is final and binding between the parties and their successors in

office regarding the claims raised in this action. The Parties agree to the admissibility of this

Agreement in any subsequent proceeding for its enforcement, or other action filed to enforce

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.

The undersigned enter into this Agreement this 31st day of May, 2016.

For the United States:


Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Civil Rights Division






Attorneys, Voting Section

Civil Rights Division

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530

Telephone: (202) 305-0919

Facsimile: (202) 307-3961

i •. '','·

For the County:

apa County Counsel

1195 Third Street, Suite 301

Napa, CA 94559

Telephone: (707)259-8273

Email: minh.

Assessor Recorder County Clerk, ex officio

Registrar of Voters

1127 First Street, Suite 128

Napa, CA 94559

Telephone: (707) 253-4459


Updated January 19, 2017