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Press Release

Justice Department Secures Agreement with Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to Resolve Voting Rights Lawsuit

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that it has secured an agreement with the City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and city elections officials to resolve allegations that Pawtucket failed to provide Spanish-language assistance for voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act and did not allow qualified voters to cast provisional ballots in violation of the Help America Vote Act. 

The proposed consent decree was filed in conjunction with the lawsuit brought by the Justice Department. The department’s lawsuit alleges that Pawtucket failed to provide election assistance and materials in Spanish for Spanish-speaking voters with limited English proficiency, in violation of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 203 requires that certain jurisdictions, including Pawtucket, provide election materials and assistance in other languages, in addition to English. The lawsuit also alleges that Pawtucket and city elections officials refused to allow individuals who were qualified to cast a provisional ballot to do so and failed to train and instruct poll workers accurately and adequately regarding the requirements for provisional ballots, all in violation of Section 302 of the Help America Vote Act. If individuals are not listed on the official registration list, HAVA requires an election official to notify individuals that they may cast a provisional ballot if they declare that they are a registered voter in the jurisdiction and eligible to vote in the election.

“Language barriers should never prevent an eligible voter from being able to fully participate in the democratic process,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Providing bilingual materials and language assistance for those who are limited English proficient will ensure that these citizens have a meaningful opportunity to participate in our democracy. We will continue to confront any barriers that stand between voters and the ability to cast their vote.” 

“The right to vote is the right on which all others depend,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha for the District of Rhode Island. “This office will remain vigilant in enforcing our civil rights laws to ensure that illegal barriers to access do not keep Americans from casting their ballots. I am grateful for our continued partnership with the Civil Rights Division on this case and commend the City of Pawtucket for taking action to ensure that these issues are addressed.”

The proposed consent decree, which must be approved by the court, requires the implementation of a comprehensive Spanish-language elections program under Section 203. The City of Pawtucket will provide all election-related information in both English and Spanish, including information in the polling places and online. The City of Pawtucket also will ensure that in-person language assistance is available at all early voting sites and at each election precinct on Election Day. In addition, the consent decree provides that all voters who are registered to vote have a right to cast a provisional ballot if their name is not found on the registration list. The consent decree also provides that federal observers may monitor election day activities in polling places in the City of Pawtucket.

More information about voting and elections is available on the Justice Department’s website at Learn more about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws at Complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights laws can be submitted through the Civil Rights Division’s website at or by telephone at 1-800-253-3931. Individuals can also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island either by emailing or by calling (401)-709-5010.

Updated May 23, 2024

Civil Rights
Voting and Elections
Press Release Number: 24-658