United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
P.O. Box 66128
Washington, D.C. 20035
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
|THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,||)|
|PASSAIC CITY, NEW JERSEY, et al.||)|
|)||CIVIL ACTION No._____|
|PASSAIC COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, et al.,||)|
|)||CIVIL ACTION No._____|
This Consent Decree represents the commitment of the parties to ensure that all citizens of Passaic County have an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process including Hispanic and Spanish language citizens. The County and City intend to fully implement this Order and Judgment, including the Program for Spanish language election information described below, as part of their ongoing efforts to ensure all voters regardless of race or ethnic origin equal access to the polls. The parties recognize and agree that regular and ongoing reassessment of the Spanish language election information program by responsible officials will be necessary in order to provide Hispanic and Spanish language citizens with access to all phases of the political process in Passaic County and Passaic City.
The United States initiated this action pursuant to Sections 2, 3(a), 11(a), 12(d), 203, 204, and 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1973, 42 U.S.C. 1973a(a), 42 U.S.C.1973i(a), 42 U.S.C. 1973j(d), 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-2, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6, 28 U.S.C. 2201, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
In its Complaint, the United States alleges five independent claims arising from Passaic City's and Passaic County's election practices and procedures as they affect Hispanic citizens of the City and County, including those Hispanic voting age citizens who are "unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the election process," 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a (hereafter "limited English proficient" or "Spanish language minorities").
The claim under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a, must be heard and determined by a court of three judges in accordance with the provisions of 42 U.S.C. section 1973aa-2 and 28 U.S.C. section 2284.
The United States alleges that various election standards, practices and procedures in Passaic County and Passaic City deny or abridge the voting rights of Hispanic and limited English proficient citizens. The challenged practices concern the lack of effective bilingual election procedures, as required by the Voting Rights Act, in the following areas: board worker appointment, training and assignment policies and practices; bilingual printing and dissemination of election information; and language assistance at the polls including full translation of election related and voting connected materials.
The defendants do not admit the allegations of the Complaint. Defendants, however, do share with the plaintiff a mutual interest to implement procedures that will protect the rights of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking voters to fully participate in the electoral process in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, and therefore, defendants agree to fully implement the terms of this Consent Decree for the enforcement of all applicable laws.
In this regard, the parties stipulate that Passaic County and Passaic City are subject to the requirements of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1973 aa-1a, see 57 Fed. Reg. 43213 (Sept. 18, 1992), and thus the defendants must furnish written and oral instructions, assistance and all information relating to voter registration and voting in the Spanish language for the benefit of the Hispanic and limited-English proficient voters.
The parties have conferred in good faith and now agree that all claims in the Complaint can be resolved without further judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the parties agree that entry of this Consent Decree is an appropriate resolution of all claims in the Complaint.
Nothing in this Decree shall be construed to prevent the United States from bringing a separate action alleging that the voting strength of Passaic's Hispanic citizens is diluted in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and using any facts supporting the relief ordered herein as evidence in such action.
The parties agree that a single member District Court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this litigation as alleged in the Complaint and resolved herein, as to all issues other than those raised under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. section 1973aa-1a. The parties further agree that a three judge district court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the claims under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act that are alleged in the Complaint and resolved herein. This Consent Decree is final and binding as to all issues raised in or by the Complaint on the parties and their officials, agents, employees, and successors, and all individuals in active concert or participation with them.
Accordingly, the parties AGREE that the following relief should be granted:
1. The Defendants agree on behalf of themselves and their officers, agents, successors and all persons acting in concert with them in the performance of their official functions, that they will take immediate steps to exhaust all reasonable efforts to increase the number of Hispanic persons and bilingual persons appointed and assigned as district board members for the June 8, 1999 primary elections. If the County is unable to obtain at least two bilingual district board members for each designated Spanish Election District, the County shall endeavor to obtain bilingual translators, without regard to whether they are resident registered voters or otherwise qualified to be district board workers.
2. Defendants shall contact Hispanic candidates, Hispanic elected officials, Hispanic organizations (including but not limited to those set forth on Exhibit A) by written communication, and by telephonic communication or through direct oral communication at a public meeting as necessary, in connection with the appointment of district board members for each election, in an effort to obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of Hispanic citizens who are qualified and available to serve as district board members.
3. At all elections conducted by Passaic County or Passaic City beginning with the 1999 primary election, Defendants shall make their best efforts to appoint Hispanic district board members to work on election day in proportions that reasonably correspond to the percentage of Hispanic registered voters in the election district to which they are assigned. Nothing in N.J.S.A. 19:6-3 shall be construed to relieve the defendants of this obligation.
4. At all elections conducted by Passaic County or Passaic City beginning with the 1999 primary election, the County Board of Elections shall in an effort to recruit Hispanic and bilingual district board workers:
(a) place an advertisement in English and Spanish in the Sunday edition of the Herald and in Spanish in the El Diario for each week, beginning 4 weeks prior to the final selection of district board members, except that for the June 1999 primary only, such advertisements may be placed once per week in a weekday or Sunday edition for the 2 weeks prior to the election;
(b) have two drive-time Spanish language 30-second public service announcements on radio WADO, AM, and station 97.9 FM, for each day beginning ten (10) days prior to the final selection of district board members for each election; and
(c) have three Spanish language public service announcements per week for the two weeks prior to the selection of district board members on TV 41 or 47; provided, however, that the Spanish election information program, described in Section E below, will supersede this provision once it has been agreed by the parties and filed with the Court.
B. BILINGUAL ELECTION-RELATED MATERIALS AND NOTICES
5. Beginning with the June 1999 primary election, defendants shall ensure that all written information that is made available to the public, including information which is provided at the polls regarding any aspect of candidate qualification, voter registration, and the absentee or in-person voting process shall also be made available in Spanish. Defendants shall ensure to the extent that it is technically feasible that the ballot on the voting machines in English shall also appear on the voting machines in Spanish at each designated Spanish Election District for each election.
6. Beginning immediately, election-related advertisements and announcements shall be bilingual and include information as to the availability of Spanish language materials and Spanish language assistance for the entire electoral process, from registration through voting.
7. Beginning with the June 1999 election, poster size bilingual signs shall be prominently posted in each polling place for the Spanish election districts notifying voters that Spanish language assistance is available and setting forth the telephone number of the emergency telephone lines described in paragraph 11, below. All other signs in each polling place in the Spanish election districts and election office in Passaic County shall also be bilingual.
C. VOTER ASSISTANCE
8. Beginning with the June 3, 1999 training session, the County Board of Elections shall instruct district board workers on the rights of blind or physically disabled voters and voters who are not able to read and write to have assistance in the voting booth by a person of their choice. Board workers will also be expressly instructed that Spanish language minority voters have a right to equal participation in the electoral process, including assistance in the voting booth in the Spanish language when appropriate. These instructions shall include discussion of the proper interpretation of relevant New Jersey election laws, as set forth in paragraph 9. Beginning with the June 1999 election, all district board workers shall be required to sign the Board Member Rules of Voter Etiquette and Procedure, attached as Exhibit B, prominently placed as part of the pay slip. These Rules shall be included in the Board Worker Instruction Booklet for all training sessions after June 1999.
9. Beginning with the June 1999 primary election, assistance shall be provided in accordance with the broad provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and in particular Sections 203 and 208, to ensure that all entitled voters needing assistance have the opportunity to fully and effectively implement their voting choices. N.J.S.A. 19:52-3 shall not be construed to limit the time in which a voter who requires assistance may reasonably remain with his assistor in the voting machine booth. Additionally, neither N.J.S.A. 19:15-8 nor N.J.S.A. 19:52-3 shall be construed to limit a voter in the choice of his assistor or to prevent an assistor from assisting more than one voter.
10. Defendant Superintendent of Elections shall make available a voting machine at the municipal buildings in the City of Paterson and the City of Passaic to allow for public demonstrations in a timely manner prior to any election.
11. Beginning with the June 1999 election, the Superintendent of Elections shall maintain dedicated emergency telephone lines for use on election day which shall be answered in the Spanish language by a trained bilingual employee, and shall provide adequate bilingual staffing on these phones office throughout the day. Signs shall be posted in Spanish in each polling place advertising the availability of telephone assistance. Calls to the emergency telephone lines shall be logged, including the name and phone number of the caller, the language spoken by the caller, the nature of the request or complaint, and how the matter was resolved.
The County and the City shall use their best efforts to ensure that a working telephone line (whether land-based or cellular) is either available for voter use in the election district or that a working public telephone is available within 100 yards of the election district.
D. PUBLICATION OF SPANISH LANGUAGE MATERIALS
12. For the June 1999 primary election, Defendants shall publicize to all citizens the availability of Spanish language materials and Spanish language assistance for purposes of casting a ballot in a voting booth or applying for and casting an absentee ballot.
13. Defendants shall publicize to all citizens the availability of assistance in voting for voters who require assistance because of blindness, disability or inability to read or write.
14. Defendants shall place bilingual announcements in the media describing the existence of the materials and assistance set forth in Sections B, C, and D of this Consent Decree.
E. ESTABLISHMENT OF A PERMANENT SPANISH LANGUAGE ELECTION INFORMATION PROGRAM.
15. By September 15, 1999, the Defendants shall review and update the designation of Spanish Election Districts in Passaic County using the most current available data so that all election districts in which the primary language of 10% or more of the registered voters is Spanish are designated. The parties agree that a district shall be designated if a Spanish surname analysis of the current list of registered voters indicates that ten percent or more of the registered voters have Spanish surnames. The United States agrees that a Spanish surname analysis is a reasonable means of "targeting" minority language assistance within the meaning of 28 CFR Ch. 1, § 55.17.
16. At all elections conducted by Passaic County or Passaic City beginning with the 1999 general election, all reasonable efforts shall be exhausted to ensure that Spanish Election Districts shall be staffed with sufficient bilingual board workers to adequately meet the needs of the Spanish language minority voters in such districts; the staffing for such election districts should have at least the two additional district board members required by N.J.S.A. 19:6-1, who are of Hispanic origin and fluent in Spanish. Nothing in that statute or in N.J.S.A. 19:6-3 shall be construed to relieve the County or City of their obligation to have a sufficient number of bilingual district board members.
17. If, for any election, the County or City is unable to obtain sufficient bilingual district board members to satisfy its obligations under this Consent Decree, the County or City shall meet these obligations by obtaining bilingual translators, without regard to whether those translators are County residents or registered voters, certifying the expense of obtaining translators as an election expense.
18. Passaic County shall, together with Passaic City, implement and enforce a Spanish Language election information program (the "Program"). The purpose of the Program shall be to ensure the dissemination of election-related and voting connected information to the Spanish-speaking citizens of Passaic County, and to make the election process equally available to Hispanic citizens, particularly those with limited English proficiency. The Program shall include provisions for the employment of Voting Rights Coordinator(s); a system for community input into the election process; recruitment, appointment and training of Hispanic and bilingual district board members; training of election personnel; translations of election related and voting connected materials; dissemination of translated materials; publication regarding the availability of voting assistance, Spanish language materials, and Spanish language voting assistance; election day procedures; and records to be maintained. The Program shall be designed with input from the United States, and defendants shall invite input from Hispanic community organizations and shall include input that is received from such organizations in the Program. The Program shall be designed to ensure that in each election district throughout Passaic County, all citizens, including Hispanic persons, limited English proficient persons and persons requiring voting assistance, have an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. This Program shall be broadly construed to improve the effective access of citizens to the electoral process in Passaic County and Passaic City.
19. The parties agree that they will work together in order to develop a Program that should be filed with this Court by August 2, 1999, and that will be fully in effect by October 1, 1999, except that the Program may enumerate specific items that will instead be implemented by January 1, 2000. Any subsequent modifications of the Program must be agreed upon by the parties and approved by the United States and shall be filed with this Court within 60 days of the effective date of the modification.
20. If the parties are unable to agree to all the terms of a Program by August 2, 1999, then the parties agree that they shall file by September 1, 1999, a Program which contains all terms that the parties can agree on and these terms shall be fully implemented by October 1, 1999. In such event, each party shall file with the three-judge Court empaneled for this case proposed terms for the remaining portions of the Program by September 15, 1999. The Court shall, after such argument as it deems necessary, order such terms as are necessary in order to ensure that every aspect of the electoral process is equally open to language minority citizens, that the Program complies with 28 CFR Ch 1 Part 55, Implementation of the Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Regarding Language Minority Groups.
21. Once the Program is adopted, Passaic County and City shall evaluate the Program on an ongoing basis through meetings with the Voting Rights Coordinator(s) as well as with Hispanic community organizations, other interested parties, and counsel for the United States. After each election, the County and City shall propose changes to the Program, if necessary, which, after inviting comments from interested parties and agreed to by the United States shall be adopted.
22. The parties shall confer in good faith if any party believes that a particular aspect of the Program has proven ineffective. The parties shall confer at least annually in a good faith effort to improve any aspect of the Program which has proven ineffective, in accordance with this Consent Decree. In the event of changes in Spanish language minority citizen population patterns in Passaic County and City, the parties promptly shall confer and develop a program for meeting fully the language needs of such population.
23. To ensure the effectiveness of this agreement and to protect the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of the citizens of Passaic County, the appointment of a federal examiner in Passaic County is authorized pursuant to Section 3(a) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973a(a), through December 31, 2003. Such designation shall be extended to ensure full and ongoing protection of the rights of the voters of Passaic County upon either agreement of the parties or by court order. The parties agree that such Order shall issue if the court determines either that Defendants are not in compliance with this agreement or that there is evidence of the denial or abridgment of any rights of Hispanic or Spanish-speaking voters under the Voting Rights Act or the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
24. If the defendants do not comply with this Consent Decree, the United States, upon reasonable notice and an opportunity to cure, shall seek enforcement from this Court. For purposes of such a proceeding, defendants shall not contest the validity of this consent decree entered by this court.
25. Copies of all materials or records referenced in this Consent Decree and the Program shall be maintained by Passaic County for not less than five years, and shall be made available to the public for inspection and copying on the same basis as other records of Passaic County.
26. Within forty-five (45) days after each election in Passaic County, the Board of Elections shall serve a report on counsel for the United States. Such report shall include:
(A) A copy of the official list of persons appointed to serve as district board members, identified by name, address, telephone number, race/ethnicity, and bilingual status;
(B) A copy of all documents required by the Program for Spanish language election information.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney General
DONNA M. MURPHY
Attorneys, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington, D.C. 20035-6128
COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS
Deputy Attorney General
Dept. of Law and Public Safety
25 West Market Street
P.O. Box 112
Trenton, NJ 08625-0112
PASSAIC COUNTY CLERK
WILLIAM PASCRELL, III
Admin. Building, Room 214
401 Grand Street
Paterson, NJ 07505
CITY OF PASSAIC
Scarinci & Hollenbeck
500 Plaza Drive, P.O. 3189
Secaucus, NJ 07096-3189
This Court finds that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331 over all matters raised in the Complaint in this case except the claims under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a. Having considered the Complaint and the stipulations set forth above, this Court ORDERS the defendants to comply with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Sections 2 and 208 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Court further ORDERS the relief set forth in Paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26 above.
Entered and Ordered this _____ day of June, 1999.
United States Judge
This three-judge Court was properly empaneled under 28 U.S.C. § 2284 to consider the claims raised by the Complaint in this case under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. section 1973aa et seq. This Court has determined that it has jurisdiction over the claims raised under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, and this Court ORDERS the defendants to comply with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Court further ORDERS the relief set forth in Paragraphs 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26 above.
Entered and Ordered this _____ day of June, 1999.
United States Judge
United States Judge
United States Judge
BOARD MEMBER RULES OF ETIQUETTE AND PROCEDURE
I, ______________, understand that my duties for the _________, ____ election include, and are not limited to:
1. Treating each voter with courtesy, dignity and respect;
2. Advising illiterate voters and voters with disabilities that they have a right to assistance, and that the person who assists them may enter the polling booth with the voter if the voter so chooses;
3. Speaking in Spanish to Spanish-language voters who are not proficient in English, or assisting the voter to find a district board member who can assist the voter in Spanish; provided that if there is no district board member or poll officer at my polling place who can assist the voter in Spanish, I will either locate a bilingual voter or I will use the emergency telephone number to obtain translation or other Spanish language assistance for the voter;
4. Permitting all voters needing assistance to select a person of their choice, other than their employer or union officer, to help them vote, and allowing them to select a single board worker rather than two board workers if they express that preference;
5. In the event that I am assisting a limited English proficient voter to cast a ballot, I will read the entire ballot, including the names of all candidates, when assisting voters who have requested assistance, and show the voter how to cast the ballot for the candidate whom the voter requests;
6. Obtaining a clear understanding of the name or names under which a voter may appear in the official list of voters, and asking for "all surnames" or "both last names" and checking for each, before concluding that a voter's name is not included in the official list;
7. Providing voters who present themselves at the polls to vote and whose names do not appear on the official list of registered voters with full information, including written information in both Spanish and English, regarding their options respecting voting, including a complaint form, and the opportunity to cast a challenged ballot;
8. Providing persons who are not registered to vote with information on how to register to vote for future elections.
I agree to perform these duties to the best of my ability.