WASHINGTON, DC – The Justice Department announced a settlement of a lawsuit against Riverside County, Calif., alleging violations of the rights of Spanish-speaking voters under the Voting Rights Act.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and language barriers should never keep citizens from accessing that right,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Today’s agreement removes a procedural impediment to voting that hindered significant numbers of citizens from exercising that right. Riverside County should be congratulated for resolving the issue quickly and in a constructive manner.”
The settlement agreement with Riverside County provides for a comprehensive Spanish language assistance program for voters, including trained bilingual election officials to be available at polling places where language assistance is needed. The Justice Department’s complaint alleged that the county failed to provide Spanish-language assistance at the polls to many of its Spanish-speaking voters in recent elections. In addition to the settlement agreement which resolves the claims in the complaint, the parties have agreed to a proposed order that will allow federal observers to monitor election day activities in its polling places.
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions determined by the Census Bureau to have a substantial population of minority-language citizens, such as Riverside County, provide voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. Enforcement of the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act is a significant priority for the Civil Rights Division.