Elections supervisors say implementing bilingual ballots would be difficult before November

Published: Aug. 23, 2018 at 4:48 PM CDT
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A coalition of civil rights groups is suing the state in an effort to force a greater use of Spanish voting materials.

Elections supervisors say some of the demands would put too much of a strain on the system to be implemented by November.

In Florida, 13 counties are already required by federal law to provide Spanish language ballots. Now a federal suit aims to force another 32 counties to do the same.

The move comes in response to the large influx of Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria.

The suit wants the ballots, registration forms, and more by November, something Leon Supervisor Mark Early finds challenging.

“While I think the numbers that I've seen from LatinoJustice says that there are potentially 292 voters in our county that would qualify for this, you know, we have 206,000 voters who don’t," said Early.

After being contacted by one of the groups involved, Early did begin providing just about everything in Spanish but the ballot that goes into the machine.

“We've done what I think we can get done, but certainly we're being asked to do a lot more," said Early.

Many smaller counties don’t have the same resources as Leon County and haven’t been able to provide as much assistance for Spanish speaking voters.

Early says even with Leon’s resources, providing bilingual ballots on such short notice would be costly.

“That's a big ask as far as our budget is concerned, our resources, to test ballots," said Early.

When asked about the suit, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham didn’t respond specifically.

“I think any time we can make voting easier we should do it," said Graham.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued this statement regarding the suit, “The Department of State provides all of its election materials in English and Spanish in accordance with the Voting Rights Act and this lawsuit does not dispute that fact. The Department believes that all Supervisors of Elections should continue making voting accessible for all voters including those whose first language is not English. This lawsuit names 32 locally-elected Supervisors of Elections who are responsible for voting in their counties and we will review it.”

The 13 counties already required to proved Spanish language ballots must do so because of their large Hispanic populations.