32 Florida Counties Ordered to Provide Spanish-Language Ballots and Voter Registration
By Paul P. Murphy
Election and voter registration materials in 32 of Florida's counties were only printed in English. A federal judge says that will end, starting with the 2020 primaries.
Those Florida counties have, essentially, been running English-only elections: voter registration materials, guides, instructions, ballots and other materials were only provided in English. Florida resident Marta Valentina Rivera Madera and a number of Latino advocacy and civic engagement groups say those elections are disenfranchising the votes of Spanish-speakers across Florida. Their lawsuit, brought in 2018, is trying to change that.
The federal Voting Rights Act says that if a student is taught in an American school where the primary language is not English, the student can't be denied the right to vote just because they cannot understand English. And because Spanish is the predominate language used and taught in Puerto Rico's schools, that means English-only elections in Florida could prevent Puerto Ricans from being able to vote.
The plaintiffs say the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey found that just over 30,000 Puerto Rican adults in the 32 counties are not proficient in English. That survey took place between 2011 and 2015 and Florida's seen a marked increase in its Puerto Rican population.