Building Back Together on Announcement of New Communities Required to Provide Language Assistance to Voters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2021
PRESS CONTACT: [email protected]
BUILDING BACK TOGETHER ON ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW COMMUNITIES REQUIRED TO PROVIDE LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE TO VOTERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, two states and 68 jurisdictions were added to the list of voting jurisdictions that are required to provide materials to voters in their preferred language under the Voting Rights Act — ensuring that all Americans, regardless of the language they speak, have free and fair access to our democracy.
This requirement means that voting materials — including voter registration forms, ballots, websites, and more — must be translated into the language spoken by local communities in covered jurisdictions. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, language access protections are being provided in 30 states — from Alaska to Florida, California to Virginia, Minnesota to Texas, and more.
In September, Building Back Together launched its Language Justice Committee to tackle the language access barriers that too many Americans continue to face at the ballot box, so that every American’s freedom to vote is protected. In too many jurisdictions, the language access requirements outlined by the Voting Rights Act are not fully met. In these localities, the LJC will continue its work to highlight these barriers and push jurisdictions to implement reforms to improve language access.
Key updates include:
- 30 states and 331 jurisdictions are now covered in whole or in part by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, up from 29 states and 263 jurisdictions.
- Spanish language assistance must be provided in 232 jurisdictions, up from 217 jurisdictions previously.
- Newly covered localities include: King County, WA; Prince William County, VA; Salt Lake County, UT; Cuyahoga County, OH; Prince George’s County, MD; Napa County and Sonoma County, CA.
- Asian language assistance must be provided in 53 jurisdictions, up from 45 jurisdictions previously.
- Newly covered localities include: Sacramento , CA (Vietnamese); San Mateo County, CA (Filipino); Maui County, HI (Filipino), Houston County, MN (Hmnong); Queens, NY (Bangladeshi); Philadelphia, PA (Chinese).
- Hmong, Hopi, Paiute, Seminole, and Shoshone are among languages covered for the first time.
“For decades now, Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act has helped ensure Americans are able to cast a free and informed ballot regardless of the language they speak,” said Building Back Together Senior Advisor Matt Barreto. “While this access was undermined by the previous administration’s failures to enforce or expand equal language access, Building Back Together’s Language Justice Committee will continue to work to prioritize voting rights and equal access to the ballot box.”
“Today’s announcement from the Census Bureau underscores the importance of continuing to break down barriers to our democracy, from inadequate recruitment of bilingual poll workers to the lack of well-translated printed materials that have too often prevented Americans from voting independently and effectively” said Building Back Together Voting Rights Director Rubén Lebrón. “Building Back Together will continue working to protect Americans’ freedom to vote and ensure language justice for all.”
The LJC will continue to work at the national level and local level to conduct outreach to election administrators notifying them of the new language requirements they will be subject to and serve as a resource to ensure election materials are made available in the language voters understand. It will also publicly catalog any failure to comply with these requirements, including by hosting press events highlighting barriers to the ballot box and reporting violations to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
The LJC is composed of voting rights activists and policy experts, in partnership with MALDEF, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, UnidosUS Action Fund, Priorities USA, Latino Victory Project, APIAVote, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, SEIU, Center for Secure and Modern Elections, Center for Civic Design, All Voting is Local, and America Votes.