(WBNG Binghamton) Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Wednesday announced an agreement with the Sullivan County Board of Elections that will help ensure equal access for minority language voters. The county will be taking steps pursuant to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that certain limited-English proficient voters be provided bilingual ballots, bilingual election-related materials and language assistance at the polls on Election Day.
According to a news release:
These efforts are a part of Attorney General Schneiderman's statewide campaign to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters have equal access to the political process and do not encounter language barriers on Election Day.
“The right to vote is one of our nation's most important civil rights. The minority-language provisions of the Voting Rights Act provide necessary safeguards and impose important requirements that are designed to ensure that all voters and prospective voters have access to the ballot box, regardless of their level of English proficiency,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “I am very pleased that the Sullivan County Board of Elections has joined the growing list of boards around the state that are working cooperatively with my office to develop effective language-access programs that allow eligible voters to cast a meaningful ballot on Election Day. These efforts move us one step closer to the goal of achieving equal access to the ballot box.”
According to 2010 Census data, approximately 5.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language, of whom 45 percent speak English less than very well. These numbers include 2.7 million New Yorkers who primarily speak Spanish at home, of whom 46 percent speak English less than very well. Of approximately 60,000 persons of voting age in Sullivan County, 8.6 percent primarily speak Spanish at home.
The numbers illustrate rising language needs across our state. To that end, Attorney General Schneiderman has undertaken a comprehensive examination of the language-access efforts of several Boards of Elections across the state that serve communities with significant numbers of limited-English proficient Puerto Rican voters pursuant to the Voting Rights Act. The Office is continuing to work with Boards across the state to identify steps and strategies that can help ensure that they are able to meet the language needs of voters this election cycle.
Beginning this month, the Sullivan County Board of Elections will ensure that voters have access to translated election-related materials, including registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, polling place reassignment letters and the Election Day ballot itself. The Board has also agreed to translate information presented on their websites, ensure that sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers are present in polling places and enhance training for all election inspectors regarding the requirements for providing language assistance on Election Day. Sullivan County joins Putnam, Dutchess, Schenectady, Ulster, Rockland and Chautauqua Counties in implementing new or significantly improved language access programs in compliance with Section 4(e).