The Federal Voting Rights Act and Minority Language Citizens
For more information about minority language voting rights, visit the United States Department of Justice website.
In 2011, based on the results of the 2010 Census, Florida, became a covered jurisdiction for the minority language of Spanish under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. The United States Department of Justice is charged with the responsibility of enforcing Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act is generally referred to as Minority Language Citizens. Prior to 2011, some Florida counties were already long-time designated Section 203 covered jurisdictions. In 2011, Lee County became a newly designated jurisdiction that must fulfill the requirements of Section 203 of the Act. Section 203 of the Act covers jurisdictions with more than 10,000 citizens or over 5 percent (5%) of the total voting age citizens, with limited English proficiency that are members of a single minority language group.
Under the Act, Florida is subject to coverage at state-level for voting rights bilingual election materials in Spanish. In addition to Lee County, the following counties are covered jurisdictions: Broward, DeSoto, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, and Seminole.
All must provide voting rights bilingual election materials in Spanish such as materials and information relating to the electoral process (including registration or voting notices, forms, ballots, instructions, website, etc.), and provide minority language assistance in all elections.
Individuals who may not speak English as their primary language and can have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English and are entitled to language assistance under the Act. The Act prohibits states and their political subdivisions from imposing voting qualifications or prerequisites to voting, or standards, practices, or procedures that deny or curtail the right of a United States citizen to vote because of race, color, or belonging to a minority language group.
Congress amended the Act in 1975 by adding Section 203. Congress found that through the use of various practices and procedures, citizens of language minorities had been effectively excluded from participation in the electoral process and declared that in order to enforce the guarantees of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, it was necessary to eliminate such discrimination by prohibiting those practices.
The Lee County Supervisor of Elections takes great care to ensure the accurate translation of voting materials as well as provide oral language assistance for minority language voters at Early Voting sites and the polls on Election Day. To this effect, all offices of the Lee County Supervisor of Elections employ bilingual staff members who can provide minority language assistance in Spanish.