In The United States District Court District Of Massachusetts Western Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; )
) CIVIL ACTION No. 06-30123-MAP
) Three Judge Court
) REQUEST FOR ORAL
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS; ) ARGUMENT
et al. )
MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES
IN SUPPORT OF UNITED STATES' MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING
ORDER, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
AND REQUEST FOR ORAL ARGUMENT
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.