Judge Orders Spanish-Language Ballots in Florida in 2020

A federal judge ordered 32 counties in Florida to provide Spanish-language ballots for the 2020 presidential primaries. US District Judge Mark Walker ruled on May 10 that Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and the 32 county elections supervisors (of 67 counties in Florida) must provide bilingual ballots by the March 17 primary, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The preliminary injunction also requires those counties to provide Spanish-language election assistance and bilingual voting materials by August.

“Latinos represent more than 25 percent of the Florida population, and it is essential that their voices are heard and included in every election cycle,” The Hispanic Federation said in a statement to The North Star. “We have important work to do in Florida to remove barriers to voting, improve voter access and enforce the rights of all voters so that their votes are counted,” the statement continued. “Language access should never be a barrier for someone from fully participating in our democracy, and exercises their right to vote.”

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by several organizations claiming that the rights of as many as 30,000 Puerto Ricans were being violated due to a lack of bilingual ballot access. Many Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens at birth, moved to Florida following the destruction of Hurricane Maria.

Though the Voting Rights Act stipulates that a county where at least 5 percent of the population is not proficient in English must have materials available in another language, the suit noted that citizens educated in an American school where the primary language is not English are not subjected to those minimum population rates. Those citizens, therefore, must have the same language resources available as English-speaking citizens.

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens and we, as faith leaders, will continue to advocate for those who are still dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Maria and still residing in Florida as a result,” Maria Revelles, deputy director with Faith in Florida, a federation of Faith in Action, said. Revelles added, “By ensuring materials are available in Spanish, we know our Puerto Rican brothers and sister (sic) can make the most informed decision because each voter deserves to fully understand what and whom they are casting their vote for.”

A recent report by Univision and L2 found that Hispanics represent the fast-growing portion of Florida’s electorate. Between 2014 and 2018, Florida’s Hispanic electorate grew by 81 percent, twice the rate of the entire electorate during that time period, the report revealed. Voter turnout among Hispanics also grew between 2014 and 2018, from 38.1 percent to 53.7 percent.

“2020 is shaping up to be an especially competitive election and, particularly in many large states including Florida with significant Latino populations, we have no doubt Hispanic America will play a key role in picking the next president and which party controls Congress,” Univision CEO Vincent Sadusky said in a statement.

In April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the state’s elections chief to address the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish-language voter assistance, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.