A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Schenectady County Board Of Elections To Provide Language Access For Voters

As Part Of Statewide Effort, Board Of Elections Agrees To Provide Translated Materials And Ensure Language Access Both On And Before Election Day

Schneiderman: Agreement Will Help Ensure More New York Voters Can Exercise Their Right To Vote

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with the Schenectady County Board of Elections that will help ensure equal access for minority language voters in advance of today’s primary election. The agreement outlines steps that will be taken by the Schenectady County Board of Elections, pursuant to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which ensures that certain limited-English proficient voters are provided bilingual ballots, bilingual election-related materials and language assistance at the polls on Election Day. Today's agreement is the result of the New York State Attorney General's statewide effort to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters have equal access to the political process and do not encounter language barriers on Election Day.

“The right to vote is one of our nation's most important civil rights. This agreement will help ensure that residents in Schenectady County receive language assistance to ensure that they are able to cast an effective and meaningful ballot on Election Day,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Schenectady County stands as a model for other Boards of Elections that are now working to develop language access programs that will ensure equal access for all voters and prospective voters, regardless of their proficiency in the English language. The Board ought to be commended for its cooperation, diligence and commitment to providing language access to all voters.”

According to 2010 Census data, approximately 5.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language, of whom 45 percent speak English less than very well. These numbers include 2.7 million New Yorkers who primarily speak Spanish at home, of whom 46 percent speak English less than very well. The numbers illustrate rising language needs across our state. To that end, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office has undertaken a comprehensive examination of the language access efforts of Boards of Elections across the state with significant numbers of limited-English proficient Puerto Rican voters pursuant to the Voting Rights Act. The Office is continuing to work with Boards across the state to identify steps and strategies that can help ensure that they are able to meet the language needs of voters this election cycle.

The agreement with the Schenectady County Board of Elections ensures that voters will have access to translated election-related materials, including registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, polling place reassignment letters and the Election Day ballot itself. The Schenectady County Board of Elections has also agreed to translate information presented on its website, ensure that sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers are present in polling places, and enhance training for all election inspectors regarding the requirements for providing language assistance on Election Day, among other things.

Schenectady County Board of ElectionsCommissioner Brian Quail said, “Translating ballots and providing interpreters on Election Day are key steps to ensuring that every American has equal access to the political process. With relative ease, we have worked with the Attorney General's Office to develop and implement an effective language access program that will operate to the benefit of voters in Schenectady County.”

Schenectady County Board of ElectionsCommissioner Art Brassard said, “The Schenectady Board of Elections is committed to ensuring that all members of our community have equal access to the ballot box. We appreciate the partnership that we have formed with the Attorney General's office to continue to fully serve the residents of Schenectady County.”

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF said, "Boards of Elections must meet their obligations to provide effective assistance to minority language communities and voters who are not fully proficient in English. Compliance with the Voting Rights Act is necessary to ensure access to the ballot box for all voters across our state."

Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said, “Language assistance is necessary to help ensure that voters are able to cast a meaningful ballot on Election Day.  Without it, the fundamental right to vote could be rendered meaningless for otherwise eligible voters in New York State.”

This initiative is being handled by Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Monica Iyer, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers. If you believe that you have experienced voting discrimination or encounter a language barrier at the polls on Election Day, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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