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In The United States District Court District Of Massachusetts Western Division

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA;                      )
                                                                             )            CIVIL ACTION No.   06-30123-MAP
                      Plaintiff,                                         )
                                                                             )            Three Judge Court
                     v.                                                     )
                                                                             )            REQUEST FOR ORAL
et al.                                                                     )
                      Defendants.                                    )


       The United States hereby moves for a temporary restraining order, or in the alternative, a preliminary injunction, to prevent Defendants from continuing to violate Sections 203 and 208 of the Voting Rights Act, as amended, during the September 19, 2006 primary and November 7, 2006 general Federal elections. The United States seeks expedited consideration of its motion to ensure relief can be granted in time for the September 19, 2006 primary. I.     INTRODUCTION        For jurisidctions covered by the Voting Rights Act to assist Spanish-speaking voters, "[s]imple logic...requires that assistance given to [Spanish-speaking voters] at the polls on election day by trained representatives of the board of Elections be in a language they understand, in order that their vote will be more than a mere physical act void of any meaningful choice." Torres v. Sachs, 381 F. Supp. 309, 312 (S.D.N.Y. 1974). "This right to vote means the right to effectively register the voter's political choice, not merely the right to move levers on a voting machine or to mark a ballot." PROPA v. Kusper, 350 F. Supp. 606, 610 (N.D. Ill. 1972), aff'd, 490 F2d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 1973) ("We agree...that 'the right to vote' encompasses the right to an effective vote.").        Under the Voting Rights Act, limited English-proficient ("LEP") Spanish-speaking voters in the City of Springfield ("the City") have had the right to receive effective, bilingual assistance and information during the entire elections process since 1992, and they have the right to choose someone to assist them at the polls if they need help with the ballot. 1

        The City has denied Spanish-speaking voters the right to an effective vote, by failing to provide required Spanish language assistance at the vast majority of the polling places that serve Spanish-speaking voters. As a result, Spenish-speaking voters (1) left their polling places without casting a ballot, (2) became confused while completing thier ballot and did not accurately record their preferred choices, or (3) wre forced to rely on translation by family members who were themselves confused about the voting process or unable to communicate in English well with poll workers. In addition, poll officials employed by the City even prevented voters from receiving assistance in Spanich from family members and friends.

        In the November 2004 presidential election, the City assigned a meager 17 bilingual workers to serve a City with 10, 575 spanich-speaking residents who are LEP (as of 2000), and all but two of those workers wree assigned to Ward 1. In the November 2005 mayoral election, the City assigned all but three of its 27 bilingual workers to Ward 1. The City made these assignments even though, according to the 2000 Census, 6,630 (63%) of the City's LEP Spanish speaking voting-age population live outside of Ward 1, in a City where 96 percent of Hispanics are U.S. citizens, The City has ignored the needs of thousands of Spanish-speaking LEP voters who live outside Ward 1 and who require assistance from poll workers in Spanish.         The United States therefore seeks a temporary restraining order, or in the alternative, a preliminary injunctionm to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters receive the assistance they need and as required by law for the Spetember 19, 2006 primary and the November 7, 2006 general elections. The United States seeks expedited consideration of its motion. In light of the short period of time before the September 19th primary election, the relief sought by the United States includes an interim program for the September primary and full compliance for the November general election. As discussed further below, the United States is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, Spanish-speaking LEP voters will be irreparably harmed if the injunction is denied, the public interest will be served by granting the relief sought, and the benefits of implementing a compliant bilingual program far outweigh any administrative costs placed on the City. II.     BACKGROUND         This action, filed on August 2, 2006, stems from the election practices and procedures in the City of springfield, Massachusetts that violate Section 203 and 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), as amended, 42 U>S> §§ 1973aa1-a and 1973aa-6. 2         Section 203 requires jurisdictions that surpass set population thresholds of language minority voting-age citizens who are LEP to provide information, assistance, and materials in the language of the covered language minority group. See 42 U.S.C. § 183aa-1a(b)(3)(A) (requiring all "registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots" to be provided in the covered language)(emphasis added). The Director of the Census designates which jurisdictions are covered to provide minority language assistance, using a formula created by Congress. These determinations of coverage are effective upon publication in the Federal Register "and shall not be subject to review in any court." See 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a(b)(2)(A) & (b)(4).         Section 208, which applies across the country, 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 the employer or officer or agent of the voter's union."         The City first became covered under Section 203 to provide bilingual assistance in Spanish snce 1992. See 57 Fed. Reg. 43,213. The United States contacted the City regarding the requirements of Section 203 in letters dated September 21, 1992; July 26, 2002; and August 31, 2004. Bonilla Decl. at ¶ 1 As used in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, "the term 'limited-English proficient' means unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process." 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-1a(a)(3)(B).
2 On July 27, 2006, the Presdient signed a law extending Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act until 2032. See Public Law 109-246, 120 Stat. 577, 581.
Updated August 6, 2015