In The United States District Court For Thedistrict Of Massachusetts

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, )
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Plaintiff,

CIVIL ACTION NO.
v.

98 CV 12256WGY
CITY OF LAWRENCE,
MASSACHUSETTS; PATRICIA
DOWLING, Mayor of
Lawrence; LAWRENCE BOARD OF
REGISTRARS OF VOTERS;
ROBERT HUTTON, Chairperson,
JAMES DRISCOLL, RONALD
MARTIN, members of the
Lawrence Board of
Registrars of Voters; and
JAMES MCGRAVEY, City Clerk
and member of the Lawrence
Board of Registrars of
Voters,
 

Defendants.

 

 

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

The United States initiated this action pursuant to Sections 2, 11(a), 12(d), 203, and 204 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1973, 42 U.S.C. 1973i(a), 42 U.S.C. 1973j(d), 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-2, and 28 U.S.C. 2201. The United States alleges five independent claims based on violations of the Voting Rights Act: (1) that defendants' alleged failure to provide registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance or other materials or information, including ballots, in the Spanish language violates Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a; (2) that defendants' alleged failure to appoint and assign Hispanic persons on the same basis as whites to serve as pollworkers violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973; (3) that defendants' alleged ineffective oral and written bilingual assistance and discriminatory pollworker appointment and assignment practices and procedures violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, by denying Spanish-language minority citizens with limited-English proficiency an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process; (4) that the method of electing the Lawrence City Council dilutes the voting strength of Hispanic citizens, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973; and (5) that the method of electing the Lawrence School Committee dilutes the voting strength of Hispanic citizens, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973.

The parties have conferred in good faith and agree that plaintiff's First, Second, and Third Causes of Action, based on Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, as described in (1) - (3) above, should be settled without the need for trial. Accordingly, the parties have agreed to entry of this Settlement Agreement and Order as an appropriate resolution of these three claims.

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 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-2 and 28 U.S.C. 2284. The second and third claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, require a determination by a single-judge court. Accordingly, the provisions of this Settlement Agreement and Order which address plaintiff's claim under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act are submitted for entry by the three-judge court. The provisions of this Settlement Agreement and Order which address plaintiff's second and third claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, are submitted for entry by the single-judge court.

The parties acknowledge and agree that this Settlement Agreement and Order is not intended to be, and shall not be construed or represented to be, evidence of or an admission of liability on the part of any of the defendants on any claim in this case. This Settlement Agreement and Order is understood as an amicable resolution of genuinely disputed claims, and defendants categorically deny the claims asserted by the United States. It is further understood and agreed between the parties that the provisions of this Settlement Agreement and Order are not intended to be and shall not be construed or represented to be evidence of or an admission that the defendants presently or in the past have failed to provide the registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process required by Section 203 and/or Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

In settlement of plaintiff's first, second, and third claims, the parties stipulate as follows: Lawrence has been subject to the requirements of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a, since 1984 with respect to the Spanish language. The city's coverage was based on a determination by the Director of the Census that more than 5 percent of Lawrence's voting age citizens are members of a single language minority group (Spanish heritage or Hispanic) who do not speak or understand English well enough to participate in the English-language election process, and the illiteracy rate of these persons as a group is higher than the national illiteracy rate. This determination was published in the Federal Register on June 25, 1984. The city's coverage under Section 203 continued when the Census issued new determinations in 1992.

This Court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this litigation. Entry of this order shall be final and binding on all of the parties and their successors as to all claims and issues raised by plaintiff's First, Second, and Third Causes of Action and resolved herein. This Settlement Agreement and Order is not intended to place any limitation on the evidence to be presented by the parties at trial with respect to plaintiff's Fourth and Fifth Causes of Action which challenge the systems of electing the Lawrence City Council and the Lawrence School Committee under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973.

The Court shall retain jurisdiction of this case consistent with the time frame established in this paragraph to enter further relief or such other orders as may be necessary for the effectuation of the purposes of this Settlement Agreement and Order and to ensure compliance with Sections 2 and 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, 1973aa-1a. In light of the complexity of the issues involved and the evolving nature of the Program and other procedures outlined below, this Settlement Agreement and Order shall remain in effect through December 31, 2003, unless plaintiff or defendants move the Court, for good cause shown, to extend or shorten this Order. The parties shall meet and confer subsequent to the November 2001 city general elections to determine whether an earlier termination is warranted.

ACCORDINGLY, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that AS TO PLAINTIFF'S FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION UNDER SECTION 203 OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6, AND PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AND THIRD CAUSES OF ACTION UNDER SECTION 2 OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT, 42 U.S.C. 1973:

1. It is the intent of the City of Lawrence ("Lawrence") to provide to Spanish-language minority citizens full and complete information about all stages of the electoral process, "including, for example the issuance, at any time during the year, of notifications, announcements, or other informational materials concerning the opportunity to register, the deadline for voter registration, the time, places and subject matters of elections, and the absentee voting process[,]" 28 C.F.R. 55.15, and that all information that is generated by Lawrence in English about "registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots" 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-la(c) shall also be provided in the Spanish language. It is also the intent of the City of Lawrence to ensure that all Spanish-language election-related information, materials, and announcements provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are made available and provided to the public in the same manner as English-language State election-related information, materials, and announcements, as provided in Section D, paragraphs 1 and 2, infra. It is the further intent of Lawrence to assure that its Hispanic citizens, including its Spanish-language minority citizens, not "have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process," and that the entire election process is equally accessible to Hispanic citizens, 42 U.S.C. 1973. The procedures set forth herein are intended to achieve these goals. This agreement represents the commitment of the parties to provide equal voting rights to all citizens of Lawrence, and Lawrence intends fully and faithfully to implement these procedures.

II. THE SPANISH LANGUAGE ELECTION INFORMATION PROGRAM

Lawrence has adopted the following Spanish Language Election Information Program (hereinafter "Program"). The purpose of the Program is to ensure the dissemination of bilingual election-related information and materials in Lawrence, and to make the election process equally accessible to Spanish-language minority voters.

A. Coordination

1. Lawrence shall meet with representatives of the Hispanic community, including representatives of each organization identified in the list appended hereto as Attachment A, and solicit their views on the implementation of all phases of the Program. The list of organizations identified on Attachment A shall not be exclusive but may be expanded to include new or additional organizations representing the Hispanic community in Lawrence. To assist in the effective dissemination of election information, Lawrence shall develop an Outreach and Publicity Plan (hereinafter "Publicity Plan") by January 31, 2000 which shall incorporate procedures for the dissemination of translated election-related information and materials, including registration information, and information explaining the necessity of filling out and returning the annual street listing form ("annual census form") to identified Spanish-language media, as defined in Paragraph E.2. below, community groups, and any other appropriate sources utilized by the Hispanic community for dissemination of information. Representatives of the Hispanic community, the Coordinator referred to in Paragraph B. below, and other interested persons, shall participate in the development of the Publicity Plan. The Publicity Plan shall provide that representatives of the Hispanic community have an opportunity to comment on both the translations of election information and the selection of polling places. The Publicity Plan shall also include a schedule for regular meetings between Lawrence, the Coordinator, and representatives of the Hispanic community to assess the effectiveness of the Program. Lawrence shall record on audio tape or keep a written record of all comments made at regularly scheduled meetings regarding the Program, selection of polling places, and Lawrence's responses to the comments.

2. For the purposes of the 1999 municipal elections only, the following measures shall constitute compliance with the requirement to implement a Publicity Plan: (1) the city shall disseminate notice of the availability of bilingual materials and assistance and the presence of bilingual election officials at each precinct to the Spanish-language media, as defined in paragraph E.2. below, and the community election liaisons, as defined in paragraph C.1. below, and (2) the city shall recruit bilingual election officials by providing notices to the Spanish-language media and community election liaisons, in addition to any other recruitment methods the city utilizes.

B. Coordinator

1. Lawrence shall assign an employee to act as the Coordinator for the Program. The Coordinator shall be bilingual at least in English and in Spanish.

2. The Coordinator shall be trained in all aspects of the election process by the Lawrence City Clerk and Board of Registrars. Lawrence will also make good faith efforts to have the Secretary of State provide the Coordinator with appropriate training. The Coordinator shall be provided all election information and attend appropriate election meetings conducted by the Secretary of State and by the Lawrence City Clerk and the Board of Registrars. The Coordinator shall be hired by the Mayor of the City of Lawrence.

2. Immediately upon the Coordinator's hiring, the Coordinator shall be fully briefed by the Lawrence City Clerk concerning the Coordinator's duties and responsibilities under the Program and shall be fully trained as soon as possible. In addition to coordinating the Program, the Coordinator shall attempt to attend, on a regular basis, meetings of the Hispanic communities within Lawrence.

3. Within 30 days after each state and/or municipal primary, general, school, and special election, Lawrence and the Coordinator shall prepare a written report, to be filed with the City Clerk, made available to the public by the City Clerk, and provided to counsel for the United States and each community election liaison as designated in Section II.C. below, detailing Lawrence and the Coordinator's election-related activities in coordinating the provisions of the Program. The report shall include information on Hispanic voter registration as determined by the 1980 Census Spanish Surname List, Technical Documentation and computer matching program. The United States shall assist Lawrence in generating the numbers necessary to determine Spanish-surnamed voter registration. The report shall also include an assessment of the effectiveness of each phase of the Program and recommendations, if any, of the steps to be taken, if any, to improve Hispanic electoral participation.

4. The Coordinator shall participate in the training and recruitment of election officials and other election-related personnel, which may include interpreters.

C. Community Election Liaisons

1. Lawrence shall invite each organization listed in Attachment A to identify at least one individual, bilingual in English and Spanish, to serve as community election liaisons between the city and the Hispanic community. All such liaisons shall be residents of Lawrence.

2. City election officials shall inform each liaison about all aspects of the election process, including the schedule of elections, election-related deadlines, absentee voting, the voter registration processes, procedures for responding to and returning annual street listing forms, candidate qualification requirements and procedures, election day activities, and the availability of information regarding ballot measures.

3. To assist in the selection of polling places, Lawrence shall meet with the community election liaisons, and shall provide them with a reasonable opportunity to review and comment on the location of polling places.

D. Translations

1. The election-related information, materials and announcements, identified in Attachment B annexed hereto, shall be fully translated into the Spanish language by Lawrence. Consistent with Section A. above and the Publicity Plan, Lawrence and the Coordinator shall ensure that a representative of the election liaisons, as chosen by the liaisons, has an opportunity to comment on the translations of election-related information, materials, and announcements. The translation of election materials and information by Lawrence shall begin as soon as the English text for an item is known, and translation and review of any election-related material shall be completed promptly and dissemination thereof shall be consistent with the Publicity Plan. It is understood that the Secretary of State has the responsibility for translating the election-related information, materials and announcements identified in Attachment C annexed hereto. Lawrence will ensure that all Spanish-language election-related information, materials and announcements identified in Attachment C are made available and provided to the public in the same manner as English-language State election-related information, materials and announcements are made available and provided to the public. Lawrence shall not be required to purchase new voting machines to comply with this provision, but shall, in the event of any change to a new voting system or device, ensure that a fully translated bilingual Spanish-English ballot be accommodated.

2. The translations of election information, materials, and announcements should be made available and be provided to the public at the same time the English text is provided to the public.

E. Dissemination of Translated Materials and Provision of Bilingual Assistance

1. All registered voters shall receive election-related information and materials which are sent out by Lawrence in English and Spanish.

2. Language assistance and all bilingual materials, including ballots, shall be provided on election day in each precinct. At least four weeks prior to each election, Lawrence shall prepare and make available to WCCM (800 AM), WHAV (1490 AM), and WNNW (1110 AM) and other local Spanish-language media outlets (hereinafter referred to as "Spanish-language media") identified by the Coordinator and community election liaisons, a notice of the availability of bilingual assistance and materials and the presence of bilingual election officials at each precinct.

F. Voter Registration and Annual Census

1. Lawrence shall notify the organizations identified in Attachment A of the availability of voter registration forms and materials, and shall provide such forms and materials to such organizations upon request, in conformity with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Secretary of State's policies regarding availability of such forms and materials.

2. The Coordinator shall provide notice concerning the availability of voter registration forms and materials to the Hispanic community through the Spanish-language media.

3. The Coordinator, consistent with the Publicity Plan, shall work with the community election liaisons, and other interested parties responsible for organizing registration drives, to ensure that voter registration applications are promptly submitted to Lawrence. Lawrence shall timely process all voter registration applications so that qualified voters are added to the voter registration list in time to vote in the earliest possible election.

4. The Coordinator, consistent with the Publicity Plan, shall work with the community election liaisons and other interested parties, to ensure that Spanish-language minority registrants are provided information concerning: (1) absentee voting processes and requirements; (2) polling place locations; and (3) annual census form procedures and deadlines, including the necessity of filling out and returning in a timely manner the annual census form, in order to avoid removal of the names of qualified, registered voters from the active voter list.

G. Absentee Voting

1. Lawrence shall notify, through the community election liaisons, the organizations identified in Attachment A of the availability of applications for absentee ballots and provide such applications to anyone upon request.

2. The Coordinator shall provide notice concerning the availability of absentee balloting options to the community election liaisons and the Spanish-language media.

H. Recruitment, Assignment, and Training of Election Officials

1. Election officials assigned to each precinct in Lawrence shall include persons who are bilingual in Spanish and in English. In the following precincts, at least 4 election officials shall be bilingual in English and Spanish: A-1, A-2, A-4, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-4, C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, D-1, D-3, D-4, E-4, F-2, F-3, and F-4. In the remaining precincts, there shall be at least 1 bilingual election official. At all times during the election day, in all precincts, there shall be present at least 1 election official who is bilingual in Spanish and English. In the event that precincts are realigned in Lawrence, the parties shall meet and confer to determine which precincts are required to have at least 4 bilingual election officials.

2. In order to resolve plaintiff's second cause of action herein, brought pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973, and to make the electoral process equally accessible to Hispanic citizens, Lawrence shall recruit and retain for appointment and assignment a number of Hispanic election officials for each precinct that reasonably corresponds to the percentage of Hispanic registered voters for that precinct. Compliance with Paragraph H.1. set forth above shall be deemed as sufficient to satisfy the number of Hispanic, bilingual election officials to be appointed and retained. Lawrence shall assign individuals to election official positions of responsibility, such as warden and deputy warden, in a racially nondiscriminatory manner such that Hispanic poll officials have an equal opportunity to serve in positions of greater responsibility as those positions become available.

3. Lawrence shall recruit and retain qualified bilingual individuals to work at the polls by utilizing a broad range of sources, consistent with the Publicity Plan, which may include recommendations of the political parties made pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, Sec. 11B, providing notices to the Spanish-language media, schools, churches, senior citizen centers and voting age residents in connection with registration activities.

4. All election officials and all other election-related personnel shall receive instructions on Lawrence's provision of bilingual assistance and bilingual materials as provided for in this Program. All election officials and all other election-related personnel shall also receive instructions on the provision of assistance to voters who require assistance by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write (i.e., such persons are permitted to choose any person to provide assistance in casting a ballot, with the exception of the voter's employer or union officer).

5. All election officials and all other election-related personnel assigned to work in all precincts shall be fully trained concerning election day procedures at the polling places, the availability of bilingual materials and assistance to voters in Spanish, the contents of the ballot (i.e., all contests, parties, and ballot questions), the procedures for determining the appropriate polling place for registered voters and referring voters to those polling places, the procedures for checking the inactive voter list and permitting inactive voters to vote, and the procedures for informing those voters whose names do not appear on the registered voters list of their options with respect to voting. All election-related personnel shall be instructed not to engage in electioneering on election day at the polls, but that Spanish-speaking voters are entitled to a full, oral translation of the ballot at the polls.

6. Training of bilingual election officials shall include translation of the entire ballot in the Spanish language so that bilingual election officials will be able to provide a full and accurate translation of any part of the ballot. Where appropriate and necessary, training shall be conducted at least in part in the Spanish language, so that the election-related personnel shall be familiar with Spanish terminology for all aspects of their election duties, including instruction in Spanish on terminology related to the voting process.

I. Pre-election Report

Twenty days before each election in Lawrence, the Lawrence City Clerk shall provide to counsel for the United States a report containing the following information: (a) the name and precinct designation of each polling place (e.g. A-1); (b) the name, title, telephone number, and race of each pollworker appointed and assigned to serve at each polling place (including a designation of those who are bilingual in English and Spanish); and (c) a copy of the most recent voter registration lists on computer disk.

J. Election-day Report

Each precinct warden, after consulting with each precinct poll official, shall complete a short form to be agreed upon by the parties, provided by Lawrence, in which he or she shall report: (1) the number of voters who receive bilingual oral assistance or bilingual materials at their polling place; (2) confirm the availability and posting of the bilingual materials; and (3) identify and record each instance in which unreasonable delays occur related to the particular needs of Spanish-language minority voters. Where such delays occur, Lawrence shall take appropriate steps, such as providing additional bilingual election officials, materials, and voting machines, to avoid such delays in future elections.

K. Records

Copies of all materials or records mentioned in this agreement shall be maintained by Lawrence, and shall be available to the public for inspection and copying on the same basis as other public records in Lawrence.

L. Adjustments to Program

1. The parties recognize that regular and ongoing reassessment of the above-outlined Program and procedures by the responsible officials may be necessary in order to provide Spanish-language minority voters equal access to all phases of the electoral process in Lawrence. Lawrence shall evaluate its Program and procedures on an ongoing basis through meetings with the community election liaisons and other interested parties and counsel for the United States.

2. The parties shall confer in good faith if any party believes that a particular aspect of this Settlement Agreement and Order has proven ineffective. The parties shall confer at least annually in a good faith effort to improve any aspect of this Settlement Agreement and Order which has proven ineffective.

AGREED AND CONSENTED TO:

For Plaintiff:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney General

________________________
DONALD K. STERN
United States Attorney

_______________________
JOSEPH D. RICH
REBECCA J. WERTZ
JON M. GREENBAUM
ELISE S. SHORE
Attorneys, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington, D.C. 20035

For Defendants:
CITY OF LAWRENCE, et al.

By their attorneys,
ROBINSON & COLE

__________________________
STEVEN P. PERLMUTTER, BBO # 395180
MICHAEL D. LURIE, BBO # 553024
One Boston Place
Lawrence, Massachusetts 01840

_________________________
ROBERT J. O'SULLIVAN
Assistant City Attorney
Office of the City Attorney
Room 306, City Hall
206 Common Street
Boston, Massachusetts 01846

JUDGMENT AND ORDER

This Court having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1345 and 42 U.S.C. 1973j(f) over plaintiff's claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973 (plaintiff's Second and Third Causes of Action), and having considered the terms of the Settlement Agreement set forth above in Section I and Section II, paragraphs H.2, I, K, and L, those terms being incorporated herein, hereby enters the relief set forth in Section II, paragraphs H.2, I, K and L.

ENTERED and ORDERED this ___ day of __________, 1999.

_______________________________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

JUDGMENT AND ORDER

This three-judge Court having been properly empaneled under 28 U.S.C. 2284 to consider the United States' claim under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973aa, (plaintiff's First Cause of Action), and having determined that it has jurisdiction over this claim, has considered the terms of the Settlement Agreement set forth in Section I and Section II, paragraphs A through G, H.1, H.3-6, I, J, K, and L those terms being incorporated herein, hereby enters the relief set forth in Section II, paragraphs A through G, H.1, H.3-6, I, J, K, and L.

ENTERED and ORDERED this ___ day of __________, 1999.

_______________________________
UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE

_______________________________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

_______________________________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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Updated August 6, 2015

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