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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

SUSANA LORENZO-GIGUERE, Special Litigation Counsel
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. CV05-5147
                                          v.                                                                  THREE-JUDGE COURT
CITY OF AZUSA, CALIFORNIA;                                             PROPOSED CONSENT DECREE,
and VERA MENDOZA, in her                                                   ORDER, AND JUDGMENT
official capacity as                                               
Azusa City Clerk,                                                 

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 Azusa's election practices and procedures in the March 2005 municipal election as they affect 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 Azusa ("the City") had a total voting age population ("VAP") of 30,667, of whom 17,981 (58.6%) were Hispanic. The total citizen voting age population ("CVAP") for the City was 21,667, of whom 10,144 (46.8%) were 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, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese languages. See 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973aa-1a(b)(2); see also 67 Fed. Reg. 48,871 (July 26, 2002). As a political subdivision within the County of Los Angeles, the City of Azusa 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 Spanish-speaking voters who need assistance and materials in the election process in the Spanish language.

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

The Complaint states that Defendants have failed to comply with the requirements of Section 203 by failing to translate certain written election materials and information into Spanish, including but not limited to the official ballot, certain voting instructions, forms for voters with disabilities, signs identifying a polling place's location, absentee ballot forms, signs indicating the hours that polling places are open, and various documents relating to voting by provisional ballot.

To avoid protracted and costly litigation, the parties have agreed that this lawsuit should be resolved through the terms of this Consent Decree (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 have attempted to comply with Section 203, but admit that they have failed to provide certain Spanish language election information as required by Section 203 to limited English proficient Hispanic citizens in the City of Azusa. Defendants are committed to complying 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

  1. Defendants, their agents, employees, contractors, successors, and all other persons or government entities representing the interests of Defendants are hereby PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from failing to provide in the Spanish language 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 Azusa and any other elections over which the City 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.
    Translation of Election-Related Materials
  2. All information that is disseminated by the City of Azusa 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 Spanish language. Defendants shall ensure that English and Spanish language election information, materials, and announcements are made equally available to voters, including information on the City's website.
  3. Defendants shall consult with trained translators who are familiar with election terminology in Spanish, to produce written Spanish language translations of English language election information. Defendants may satisfy this obligation by using terminology and translations provided by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk or the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of State of California. Defendants shall also consult in a timely manner with the Spanish Language Advisory Group, discussed below, regarding the translation of any written and audio-recorded materials.
  4. Defendants shall adopt a checklist identifying each material and written item containing Spanish 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 Spanish language materials, or a detailed written explanation as to why individual items were not posted or made 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 Spanish Language Information
  5. Defendants shall ensure that Spanish language election information, materials, and announcements are provided to the same extent as they are provided in English. Spanish language information shall be distributed in media that regularly publishes or broadcasts information in the Spanish language such as the City's bilingual newsletter. 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.
  6. Any voting system used by the City shall be bilingual, as described below. If the City uses electronic voting machines, these machines shall offer the readily apparent options of a Spanish ballot, and any audio version of the ballot on such machines shall be available in Spanish. Any paper ballots used by the City, including the official ballot, the provisional ballot, and the absentee ballot, shall be bilingual, in both English and Spanish.
  7. Whatever information the City provides in the voting booth, including instructions on the casting of a ballot, shall appear in the booth bilingually in both Spanish and English.
  8. The City shall adopt a bilingual sample ballot booklet that provides all information in English and Spanish. The booklet's cover must include readily visible Spanish language translations of all the information provided on the cover in the English language.
    Spanish Language Assistance
  9. The City shall continue to recruit, hire, and assign election officials able to understand and speak Spanish fluently to provide assistance to Spanish language voters at all polling places in the City on election days.
    Program Coordinator
  10. The City of Azusa shall designate its City Clerk or his/her designee as the Spanish Language Program Coordinator to coordinate the City's election-related Spanish language materials and assistance. The City may coordinate with other governmental or non-governmental entities in providing a Spanish Language Program Coordinator for its election program, and the Coordinator may perform other duties in addition to his or her election-related duties. The Spanish Language Program Coordinator shall speak, read, and write Spanish and English. The City shall provide the Spanish Language Program Coordinator with support sufficient to meet the goals of the Program. The Spanish Language Program Coordinator's responsibilities shall include coordination of the translation of ballots and other election information; development and oversight of Spanish language publicity programs, including selection of appropriate media for notices and announcements; training, recruitment and assessment of Spanish language proficiency of bilingual poll officials and interpreters; and managing all other aspects of the City's compliance with Section 203.
    Spanish Language Advisory Group
  11. The City shall form a Spanish Language Advisory Group concerning Spanish language election-related materials and assistance. Among the steps the City will take in order to convene the first meeting of an Advisory Group are: the City will publish a bilingual notice that it is seeking volunteers to participate in a Spanish Language Advisory Group and shall send anyone who responds to its notice an invitation to participate in the Advisory Group at least two weeks prior to the convening of said Group. The Advisory Group shall provide the City with information and assistance concerning how to provide election-related materials and assistance for its Spanish-speaking citizens.
  12. The Advisory Group shall be chaired by the Spanish Language Program Coordinator. The Program Coordinator shall invite participation from all interested individuals and organizations that work with or serve Azusa's Spanish-speaking community to determine how to provide effectively election materials, information, and assistance to Spanish-speaking voters, and how to fill any gaps in public awareness about the City's Spanish language election program. The Group shall be open to all interested persons. 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 the Spanish Language Advisory Group's suggestion with respect to Spanish language assistance or information, the Clerk shall provide to the Advisory Group through the Program Coordinator and maintain on file a written statement of the reasons for rejecting such suggestion.
  13. 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.
    Other Language Minority Groups
  14. Although the Spanish language minority group is the only language minority group in the City of Azusa currently requiring election-related materials and assistance, as a political unit within the County of Los Angeles, the City is also subject to the requirements of Section 203 for Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. To ensure future compliance with Section 203, the City shall monitor changes in the City population and voter registration, and develop contingency plans to provide election information and materials to Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese 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.
    Federal Examiners and Observers
  15. 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 Azusa, the appointment of a federal examiner is authorized for the City of Azusa pursuant to Section 3(a) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ァ 1973a(a), as long as this Decree is in effect.
  16. Defendants shall recognize the authority of federal observers to observe all aspects of voting conducted in the polls on election day.
    Evaluation of Plan
  17. Defendants shall evaluate the Program after each of its municipal elections 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
  18. During the duration of this Decree, the City shall make and maintain written records pertaining to this Decree and shall provide copies of such records to the United States upon request.
  19. During the duration of this Decree, at least thirty (30) 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; and (b) copies of any signs or other written information provided at polling places. Within thirty (30) days after each election, Defendants shall provide to counsel for the United States (a) information about any complaints the City Clerk's office received at the election regarding Spanish language materials or assistance; and (b) copies of the checklists prepared by poll workers referred to in Paragraph four of this Decree. Copies may be provided electronically.
    Other Provisions
  20. 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, and the parties further stipulate that the Decree shall extend through December 31, 2009, if Defendants remain under a continuing federal statutory obligation to provide minority language materials and assistance.
  21. 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.
  22. Each party shall bear its own costs and fees.

Agreed to this __14th_____ day of __July____, 2005.


For Plaintiff:                                                                              For Defendants:


Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

______/s/____________________                                ______/s/____________________
DEBRA W. YANG                                                        SONIA RUBIO CARVALHO, ESQ.
United States Attorney                                                     CITY Attorney
MICHELE C. MARCHAND                                          Best, Best and Krieger
Asst. United States Attorney                                            5 Plaza, Suite 1500
                                                                                        Irvine, CA 92614
                                                                                        (949) 263-2603

SUSANA LORENZO-GIGUERE, Special Litigation Counsel
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 _22__ day of _August__, 2005.

Susan P. Graber

Gary Feess

George Schiavelli


Updated August 6, 2015