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Advocates Sue to Bring Bilingual Elections to 32 Florida Counties

While early voting has started in some Florida counties, a voting rights case is heading to court. Five Hispanic organizations have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Marta Valentina Rivera Madera.

The organizations Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR filed a lawsuit . The organizations demand the state of Florida to order 32 counties to print voting materials in English and Spanish in the upcoming November election.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee will preside over the case. He is aware that time is a factor as primary election early voting starts in Lee County on Aug. 18 .

The defendant named in the case, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, is Governor Rick Scott’s chief elections official.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that Hurricane Maria forced Puerto Rican voters to evacuate to counties all over Florida. These places where the American citizens resettled to include places where all ballots and election promotion materials are only printed in English.

The Florida governor is in an awkward situation. He is running for a U.S. Senate seat on the Republican ticket where the issue is not popular among its base.

However, Scott is a staunch advocate for Puerto Ricans and is expected to publicly endorse the update to voting materials.

One of those counties listed in the lawsuit is Charlotte County. Florida law states that 5 percent of the adult population in a county has to be proficient in a language for it to be on the ballot. In Lee County, Spanish ballots have been used since 2002.

Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 addresses the rights of individual voters, specifically those who were educated in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Charlotte County Seal Students who completed the sixth grade in Puerto Rico and were instructed in a classroom language other than English, should not be denied the right to vote.

So if you’re in Charlotte County and are having troubles voting, what do you do?

No matter what language, voters can ask for assistance if they have trouble reading their ballot. Constituents can ask for a poll worker to help him or her translate the options on the ballot. Someone in the voter’s family could translate the text on the ballot by request.

The 32 counties named in the lawsuit are Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor, and Wakulla County.