Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act has fostered language assistance for many language minority voters over the last 40 plus years. However, as effective as it has been, Section 203 is limited to specific jurisdictions that meet certain coverage thresholds. The most recent round of determinations in 2016 identified just 263 jurisdictions that met such thresholds, including statewide coverage for three states: California, Florida and Texas. Section 203 is also limited in the sense that it only requires language assistance in covered jurisdictions for certain language minority groups: Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native, and Asian language groups.
Election officials and other stakeholders have used multiple tools to go beyond the requirements of Section 203 in serving their language minority voters. This includes jurisdictions that provide assistance in languages that are not covered by Section 203, as well as jurisdictions that provide language assistance on a voluntary basis. This also includes the utilization of Section 4(e) to support Puerto Rican voters, as well as enacting state laws to expand the franchise for language minority voters.
Ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), in partnership with Arizona State University Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, and Democracy Fund Voice, is hosting the third annual Language Access for Voters Summit at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
The summit will convene state and local election officials, advocates and other experts to share ideas, techniques, and resources – all in service of meeting these voters’ needs. As in years past, the summit aims to share information, as well as generate a new understanding and appreciation between various stakeholder communities.
Today, the EAC is pleased to announce the third panel of the Language Access Summit, “Above and Beyond Section 203: Voluntary Assistance and Other Proactive Measures,” moderated by Stacey Scholl, Senior Program Associate, Elections, Democracy Fund Voice:
- Bill Cowles, Supervisor of Elections, Orange County, Florida
- Nicole L. Crispo, City Clerk, City of Quincy, Massachusetts
- Francesca Menes, Florida State Coordinator, Local Progress/Center for Popular Democracy
- Kira Romero-Craft, Managing Attorney, Southeast Regional Office, LatinoJustice PRLDEF
This session will explore how election officials and other stakeholders are going above and beyond Section 203 to support their language minority voters.