Voting Rights Act Section 203 Cases

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Acting Assistant Attorney General

DEBRA WONG YANG, United States Attorney
Assistant United States Attorney (#93390)
United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street, 14th floor
Los Angeles, California 90012
Telephone: (213) 894-2727
Facsimile: (213) 894-7177

AVNER SHAPIRO, Trial Attorney
JOHN "BERT" RUSS, Trial Attorney (#192471)
Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. - NWB-7254
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: (202) 305-1840
Facsimile: (202) 307-3961

Counsel for Plaintiff
United States of America


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,                                                        No. CV05-5131 GAF
                                          v.                                                                  THREE-JUDGE COURT
                                                                                                    ORDER, AND JUDGMENT
THE ROSEMEAD CITY COUNCIL;                  
BILL CROWE in his official                                
capacity as Rosemead                                          
City Manager; and NANCY                                 
VALDERRAMA in her official                           
capacity as Rosemead City                                  

The United States of America filed this action pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Section 203"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a; 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-2; and 28 U.S.C. ァ 2201, alleging violations of Section 203 arising from the City of Rosemead's election practices and procedures as they affect Chinese-, Vietnamese-, and Spanish-speaking citizens of the City.

The Complaint's cause of action under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a, must be heard and determined by a court of three judges pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-2 and 28 U.S.C. ァ 2284.

According to the 2000 Census, the City of Rosemead ("the City") has a total population of 53,280, of whom 16,862 (31.6%) are Chinese, 6,945 (13.0%) are Vietnamese, and 21,846 (41.0%) are Hispanic. The City has a total voting age population ("VAP") of 38,685, of whom 12,729 (32.9%) are Chinese, 5,236 (13.5%) are Vietnamese, and 14,571 are Hispanic (37.7%). The total citizen voting-age population ("CVAP") for the City is 25,550, of whom 8,196 (32.1%) are Chinese, 3,305 (12.9%) are Vietnamese, and 8,921 (34.9%) are Hispanic.

The Census Bureau has designated the County of Los Angeles as subject to the requirements of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, for the Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and Filipino languages. See 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a(b)(2); see also 67 Fed. Reg. 48,871 (July 26, 2002). As a political unit within the County of Los Angeles, the City of Rosemead is also subject to the requirements of Section 203 for these languages. See 28 C.F.R. ァ 55.9. The City currently has significant numbers of voters in the Chinese-, Vietnamese-, and Spanish-speaking communities who need assistance in the election process in languages other than English.

The City of Rosemead conducts its own municipal elections, while the County of Los Angeles conducts county, state, and federal elections in which voters in Rosemead also vote. The allegations in the Complaint and the terms of this Consent Decree apply to Rosemead's municipal elections, and any other elections Rosemead has authority to conduct.

The Complaint states that Defendants have failed to comply with the requirements of Section 203 for Chinese-, Vietnamese-, and Spanish-speaking citizens residing in the City of Rosemead by (1) by failing to provide an adequate number of Chinese- and Vietnamese-speaking poll workers trained to assist limited English proficient voters on election day; and (2) failing to translate written election materials and information into Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish (including pre-election publicity relating to the time, date, and place of election; information concerning voter precinct assignments; the official ballot; a notice describing the rights of voters; polling booth voting instructions; a sign identifying a polling place's location; provisional and absentee ballot related documents; and other information and written election materials).

To avoid protracted and costly litigation, the parties have agreed that this lawsuit should be resolved through the terms of this Consent Decree (hereinafter, the "Decree"). Accordingly, the United States and Defendants hereby consent to the entry of this Decree, as indicated by the signatures of counsel at the end of this document. The parties waive a hearing and entry of findings of fact and conclusions of law on all issues involved in this matter.

Defendants are committed to comply fully with all of the requirements of Section 203 in future elections and stipulate that each provision of this Consent Decree is appropriate and necessary.

Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:

  1. Defendants, their agents, employees, contractors, successors, and all other persons or government entities representing the interests of the Defendants are hereby PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from failing to provide in the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish languages any "registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots" that they provide in the English language, as required by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, as amended. 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a(c). The terms of this Decree apply to all municipal elections in the City of Rosemead and any other elections that the City of Rosemead has authority to conduct. Whenever Defendants enter into an election-related services contract with another entity -- whether it be a company, political subdivision, political party, or some other entity -- to conduct an election on behalf of the City, Defendants shall require such other entity to agree to abide by the terms of this Decree as if such entity were a party to this Decree with the United States.
  2. The City shall develop contingency plans to provide election information, materials, and oral assistance to Korean, Japanese, and Filipino voters, should the need for language assistance in these communities arise in the future. Any language assistance and materials provided to these additional language minority groups shall be provided in a manner consistent with the requirements of this Decree.
  3. Throughout the duration of this Consent Decree, any assistance provided orally in Chinese shall be in the dialect relevant to the voters being served by the Defendants. Translation of Election-Related Materials
  4. All information that is disseminated by the City of Rosemead 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. ァ 1973aa-1a(c), shall also be provided in the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish languages. Defendants shall ensure that English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish language election information, materials, and announcements are made equally available to voters.
  5. Defendants shall consult with trained translators who are familiar with election terminology in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish, to produce written minority-language translations of English-language election information. Defendants may satisfy this obligation by using terminology and translation provided by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Defendants shall also consult in a timely manner with their Advisory Groups, discussed below, regarding the translation of written and any audio-recorded materials.
  6. Defendants shall adopt a checklist identifying each material and written item that is provided in a minority language and that the City makes available to the public at each precinct. The checklist shall include with respect to each item an attestation that the poll workers at the precinct posted or made available to voters these minority language materials in each language, or a detailed written explanation of why individual items had not been posted or were not available. The inspectors for each precinct must complete and sign this document before the inspectors receive payment for work in the election, subject to applicable state and federal law. Defendants shall maintain a record of each such failure to complete and sign the checklist. Dissemination of Minority-Language Information
  7. Defendants shall ensure that Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish-language election information, materials, and announcements are provided to the same extent as this information, materials, and announcements are provided in English. Chinese-, Vietnamese-, and Spanish-language information shall be distributed in newspapers, radio, and/or other media that exclusively or regularly publish or broadcast information in the relevant minority language. These announcements need not be identical in all respects to English-language announcements, but 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.
  8. Any voting system used by the City shall be multilingual, as described below. If the City uses electronic voting machines, these machines shall offer the readily apparent options of at least a Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese ballot, and any audio version of the ballot on such machines shall be available at least in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Any paper ballots used by the City, including the official ballot, the provisional ballot, and the absentee ballot, shall be translated multi-lingually with English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese on one ballot, if mechanically feasible. If it is not mechanically feasible to have all four languages on one ballot, subject to the provisions of paragraph 9 in this Decree, all paper ballots shall be at least bilingual. With respect to paper ballots, the principal bilingual ballot shall be in English and the predominant minority-language in the City (e.g., currently Chinese), and the City shall also provide separate bilingual ballots in each of the other covered minority languages where there is a need among voters in the City (e.g., currently Vietnamese and Spanish).
  9. If the City elects to have a bilingual ballot in English and the predominant minority language, and separate bilingual ballots in the other minority languages, the ballots shall be clearly labeled so that poll officials know the languages represented on the ballot. The City shall ensure that all ballots are made visible and available on an equal basis with the principal bilingual ballots, and poll officials shall let each voter know the language choices of ballots available. For each minority language, the City shall provide enough minority language ballots to equal either at least 100 percent of the number of requests in a precinct for election materials in a particular minority language group or at least 100 percent of the number of registered voters in a precinct whose surname indicates membership in a particular group. At a minimum, the City shall provide no fewer than 10 minority language ballots in each language at each precinct. The parties may by written agreement adjust the above described standard in light of confirmed information that the actual language need in a particular precinct is less or greater than that standard.
  10. To the extent the City posts instructions on casting a ballot and other information in English in the voting booth, the City shall also provide that same information at least in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese in the voting booth.
  11. Sample ballots and other written materials mailed to voters' homes shall be provided in Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese to voters who have requested or may request materials be mailed to them in the relevant minority language. The translated materials mailed to voters' homes must include all of the relevant information provided in the English-language materials (e.g., if the English language sample ballot booklet includes the voter's polling place, the minority language sample ballot booklet must include the same information), and these minority-language materials must be mailed out at the same time as the English-language materials.
  12. To ensure that minority language voters are adequately informed of their ability to obtain minority language materials, the following measures shall be taken:
    1. The City shall make Spanish-, Chinese-, and Vietnamese-speaking staff available during business hours to answer inquiries by minority language voters and to advise such voters of the availability of minority language materials.
    2. The City shall, with the guidance of its Coordinators and Advisory Groups described below, develop a contact list of all identifiable community groups serving the City's Spanish-, Chinese-, and Vietnamese-speaking residents as a means of effectively and efficiently distributing local election information to its citizens, and solicit the assistance of such groups in the distribution of minority language election information.
    3. Effective within 60 days of this order, the City shall mail "notice" cards to all registered voters within the City who have thus far not requested minority language materials and who were born in Spanish-, Chinese-, or Vietnamese-speaking countries. The "notice" cards shall inform such voters of their opportunity to receive election information in a minority language. The cards also shall inform language minority voters of their ability to participate in the Advisory Groups discussed below.
    4. The City shall develop a program in conjunction with the recommendations of the Advisory Groups to ensure Spanish-, Chinese-, and Vietnamese-speaking voters are aware of the availability of and receive minority language materials. The City shall devote reasonable resources, including an additional mailing of "notice" cards.
    5. Minority language sample ballots shall be available to any voter who requests one, even if the voter has already received an English-language version.
  13. Nothing in this Decree prevents the City from adopting a multilingual sample ballot booklet that provides all information in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Minority-Language Assistance
  14. The City shall provide at least Spanish-language, Chinese-language, and Vietnamese-language assistance for voters who contact the City before, during, or after a municipal election with questions regarding the election process. Trained bilingual election personnel shall be available to answer voting-related questions by telephone without cost and during normal business hours and while the polls are open on election day. The City may coordinate the provision of such services with other governmental or non-governmental entities that conduct elections.
  15. Defendants shall recruit, hire, and assign election officials able to understand and speak Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese fluently to provide assistance to minority language voters at the polls on election days.
  16. The City shall survey its employees to identify personnel who speak Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese fluently and, to the extent such employees can be made available to provide assistance, allow and encourage such employees to serve at the polls on election day. The City shall also invite eligible members of the Advisory Group, discussed below, to serve as poll officials and to encourage other bilingual voters to do so. The City shall contact the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk for names of bilingual individuals who have served as poll workers in County elections.
  17. In determining the threshold for assigning bilingual poll workers in Rosemead's municipal elections, the following factors are relevant: the historically lower voter turn-out rate for municipal elections in Rosemead as compared to County-wide elections, the differing rates of English proficiency among the minority language communities, and the extent to which Asian surname analyses of registered voters (using the Lauderdale and Kestenbaum lists of Asian surnames) undercount the true number of voters in a particular community. In light of these factors, Defendants and any entity conducting elections on Defendants' behalf, in addition to satisfying all requirements of California state law and the recommended guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, shall meet the following standards for assigning bilingual workers in Rosemead's municipal elections:
    1. Defendants shall provide at least one Spanish-speaking poll worker for each consolidated precinct that has 100 or more Spanish-surnamed voters.
    2. Defendants shall provide at least one Cantonese or Mandarin-speaking poll worker (depending on whatever Chinese dialect is relevant for the precinct) for each consolidated precinct that has 35 or more Chinese-surnamed voters.
    3. Defendants shall provide at least one Vietnamese-speaking poll worker for each consolidated precinct that has 35 or more Vietnamese-surnamed voters.
    4. The parties may by written agreement adjust this requirement in light of confirmed information that the actual language need in a particular precinct is less or greater than this standard.
    5. To avoid last-minute gaps in minority language coverage at the polls on election day due to Spanish-, Chinese, and Vietnamese-speaking poll workers who fail to report for work, Defendants shall employ personnel trained in minority language election terminology who shall be on call and available to travel to a polling place not staffed by a bilingual poll worker to provide any necessary assistance to a Spanish-, Chinese-, or Vietnamese-speaking voter.
  18. Signs in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese shall be posted prominently at polling places stating that the relevant minority language assistance is available. At sites without bilingual staff, signs in all four languages shall be posted that explain how voters can obtain language assistance. Election Official Training
  19. Prior to each municipal election, Defendants shall ensure that all poll workers and other election personnel are trained in the following areas: the provisions of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, including the legal obligation and means to make minority language assistance and materials available to voters; the requirement that poll officials be respectful and courteous to all voters regardless of race, ethnicity, color, or language abilities; and the requirements of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-6, regarding the rights of voters to the assistor of their choice. The City may coordinate with other governmental or non-governmental entities in ensuring that this training is provided. Response to Complaints About Poll Workers
  20. Defendants, upon receipt of complaints, whether oral or written, shall investigate expeditiously any allegations of poll worker hostility toward minority voters or minority-language speakers in any election. The results of the investigation(s) conducted by the Defendants shall be reported to the United States in writing within thirty days of receiving the complaint. Where there is credible evidence that poll workers have engaged in inappropriate treatment of voters, Defendants shall remove the poll workers. Program Coordinators
  21. For each minority language group in the City needing minority language election materials and assistance (currently Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese), the City shall retain or designate a Program Coordinator to coordinate the City's election related assistance and materials for that particular language. The City may coordinate with other governmental or non-governmental entities in providing Program Coordinators for its election program, and the coordinators may perform other duties in addition to their election-related duties. Each Program Coordinator shall speak, read, and write English and the language of the minority language group for which he/she is coordinating election related assistance and materials and individuals who are fluent in more than one of the covered languages may be designated as the Program Coordinator for each language group for which he/she is qualified. The City shall provide each Program Coordinator with support sufficient to meet the goals of the Program. Each Program Coordinator's responsibilities shall include coordination of translation of ballots and other election information; development and oversight of minority language publicity programs, including selection of appropriate media for notices and announcements; recruitment and assessment of minority-language proficiency of bilingual poll officials and interpreters; and managing other aspects of the Program. Advisory Groups
  22. The City shall form an Advisory Group for each of the City's language minority groups needing minority language materials and assistance (currently Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese). Each Advisory Group shall provide the City with information and assistance concerning how to provide election related materials and assistance for its language group.
  23. Each Advisory Group shall be established and chaired by the Program Coordinator coordinating for the same minority language group. The Program Coordinator shall invite participation from all interested individuals and organizations that work with or serve the communities that speak languages other than English in Rosemead (in particular, the Spanish-, Chinese-, and Vietnamese-speaking communities) to determine how to provide effectively election materials, information, and assistance to minority-language voters, and how to fill any gaps in public awareness about the City's multilingual election program due to past failures to provide accessible election-related information to minority language voters. The Program Coordinator shall provide notice of all planned meetings to each member, including the time, location, and agenda for the meeting, at least 14 days in advance, although members of the Advisory Group may agree to waive or shorten this time period as necessary. Within five working days following each meeting, the Program Coordinator shall provide a written summary to all members and to the City Clerk of the discussion and any decisions reached at the meeting. If the City Clerk decides not to implement an Advisory Group suggestion or a consensus cannot be reached with respect to such suggestion, the Clerk shall provide to the group through the Program Coordinator and maintain on file a written statement of the reasons for rejecting such suggestion.
  24. The City shall transmit to all interested Advisory Group members copies of all election information, announcements, and notices that are provided to the electorate and general public and request that Group members share this information with others. Federal Examiners and Observers
  25. To monitor compliance with and ensure effectiveness of this Decree, and to protect the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of the citizens of the City of Rosemead, the appointment of a federal examiner is authorized for the City of Rosemead pursuant to Section 3(a) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973a(a), through August 6, 2007. On motion of the United States within thirty (30) days thereafter, the agreement shall be extended through the 2009 municipal elections in Rosemead and thirty days thereafter.
  26. Defendants shall recognize the authority of federal observers to observe all aspects of voting conducted in the polls on election day, including the authority to view poll officials providing assistance to voters during voting, except where the voter objects. Evaluation of Plan
  27. The parties recognize that regular and ongoing reassessment may be necessary to provide the most effective and efficient multilingual Program. Defendants shall evaluate the Program after each election to determine which aspects of the Program are functioning well; whether any aspects need improvement; and how to effect needed improvements. The Program may be adjusted at any time upon joint written agreement of the parties. Retention of Documents and Reporting Requirements
  28. During the duration of this Decree, the City shall make and maintain as public documents written records of all actions taken pursuant to this Decree.
  29. During the duration of this Decree, at least ten (10) days before each municipal election held in the City, Defendants shall provide to counsel for the United States, (a) the name, address, and precinct designation of each consolidated precinct; (b) the name and title of each poll official appointed and assigned to serve at each consolidated precinct; (c) a designation of whether each poll official is bilingual and any minority language(s) that the official speaks; (d) copies of any signs or other written information provided at polling places; and (e) an electronic copy of the voter registration list to be used in such election. Within thirty (30) days after each election, Defendants shall provide to counsel for the United States any updated report regarding changes in items (a)-(d) above that occurred at the election, and provide information about all complaints the City received at the election regarding language or assistance issues. Other Provisions
  30. This Decree is final and binding between the parties and their successors in office regarding the claims raised in this action. This Decree shall remain in effect through August 6, 2007, subject to paragraph 25.
  31. The Court shall retain jurisdiction of this case to enter further relief or such other orders as may be necessary for the effectuation of the terms of this agreement and to ensure compliance with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.
  32. Each party shall bear its own costs and fees.

Agreed to this _14th__ day of __July___, 2005.


For Plaintiff:                                                                              For Defendants:

_______/s/________________                                                 _______/s/________________
BRADLEY J. SCHLOZMAN                                                     NANCY VALDERRAMA
Acting Assistant Attorney General                                                City Clerk
Civil Rights Division                                                                     City of Rosemead
                                                                                                   8838 E. Valley Boulevard
                                                                                                   Rosemead, CA 91770

_______/s/________________                                                 _______/s/________________
DEBRA WONG YANG                                                             ROBERT L. KRESS (SB #53925)
United States Attorney                                                                City Attorney
Asst. United States Attorney

JOHN TANNER, Acting Chief
AVNER SHAPIRO, Trial Attorney
JOHN "BERT" RUSS, Trial Attorney
Voting Section
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. - NWB-7254
Washington, D.C. 20530


This three-judge Court, having been properly empaneled under 28 U.S.C. ァ 2284 and 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-2 to consider the United States' claim under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a, and having determined that it has jurisdiction over this claim, has considered the terms of the Consent Decree, and hereby enters the relief set forth above and incorporates those terms herein.

ENTERED and ORDERED this _6th__ day of __ September__, 2005.

M. Margaret McKeown

Gary Feess

George H. King

Updated August 6, 2015

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