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Cuyahoga Board of Elections to enter agreement with US Dept of Justice to accommodate Puerto Rican Voters
Submitted by briancummins on Wed, 09/01/2010 - 18:51.
In a historic tie braking vote, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner voted to have the Cuyahoga Board of Elections enter into agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide additional voting access and accommodations for Puerto Rican voters residing in Cuyahoga County.
The actions come from over a year of investigations into the county’s adherence to the guarantees provided under the 1965 voting Rights Act (4.e.) to limited-English proficient voters who are U. S. citizens educated in Spanish in schools in Puerto Rico.
The Board split on party lines with Republicans Rob Frost and Jeff Hastings (Chairman) voting against the agreement and Democrats Sandy McNair and Inajo Davis Chappell voting for it. Previous to the vote on entering onto the agreement, Rob Frost made a motion that was approved unanimously to take more limited actions immediately for the September and November elections. Frost and Hastings wanted to take a more limited approach that would of sought to provide bilingual ballots only to precincts that by the census verification have a minimum of 100 Hispanic surnames. The Department of Justice has argued that such an action would fail to meet the requirements of the law.
In terms of immediate actions - the Board has already prepared sample ballots that are available on-line and that will be available at a limited number of polling locations for the September and November elections. For the November election the Board will prepare bilingual ballots for 71 precincts, primarily located in the City of Cleveland.
The agreement with the DOJ will require bilingual ballots be prepared for the entire county by next spring.
In testimony today it was stated that Cuyahoga County is the first county in Ohio to take such measures on behalf of Puerto Rican voters. A similar case was cited for the City of Philadelphia in 2007. The agreement will be in effect until 2014 at which time the parties expect that the County will be in full compliance of the law. Also mentioned at the meeting was a Plain Dealer report that the DOJ stated caught their attention in 2004 – see citation referenced below.
When commenting on the proceedings, Jose Feliciano of the Hispanic Round Table stated that without the Justice Department’s actions the actions being taken currently would likely not have occurred. Recent complaints about the DOJ’s short-notice demands were undermined by the DOJ’s claims of multiple requests for information over the past year specifically related to the 1965 law, section 4.e. The point being that the BOE has had plenty of time to consider actions to get into compliance. The agreement reached today with the help of Secretary of State Brunner will ensure that.
The September 1st, 2010 U.S.A & Cuyahoga BOE agreement (20 page PDF)
Voting Rights Act info – see 4.e.:
Cuyahoga election board agrees to limited bilingual ballots this year, countywide use next year
Voter groups fear Election Day chaos Area ‘hot spots’ show big rise in registrations
United States v. City of Philadelphia, PA (E.D. Pa. 2007)