A.G. Schneiderman Announces Completion Of Major Voting Rights Language Access Initiative

AG’s Language Access Initiative Includes 8 Boards Of Elections And Will Benefit Almost 40,000 Potential Voters Throughout The State

Boards Of Elections To Provide Spanish-Language Materials And Language Assistance Before And On Election Day

Schneiderman: The Right To Vote Is One Of Our Nation's Most Important Civil Rights

ALBANY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the completion of a major Language Access Initiative aimed at ensuring that Spanish-speaking voters have equal access to the electoral process. The most recent agreement with the Montgomery County Board of Elections marks a milestone in the Attorney General’s 9-month effort to promote and achieve compliance with the language access provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

“Our most recent agreement with the Montgomery County Board of Elections marks a significant moment in our effort to ensure that voters in New York have access to the political process regardless of their proficiency in English,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “My office is committed to ensuring that language does not stand as a barrier in one’s effort to exercise the right to vote in New York State. The efforts now underway will help provide greater access and lead to higher participation rates among countless voters. Our Civil Rights Bureau will actively monitor the agreements that we have secured with Boards of Elections to ensure that all eligible voters have meaningful access to the ballot box in the years ahead.”

The Montgomery County Board of Elections was the last of eight upstate counties to enter into an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office pursuant to his Language Access Initiative. The most recent agreement stands to benefit numerous individuals in the County -- 11 percent of Montgomery County residents are Hispanic/Latino and 41 percent of those residents are limited English proficient.

In August 2012, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman undertook a comprehensive examination of the language access efforts of 10 Boards of Elections located in counties with significant Spanish speaking populations seeking information regarding their efforts to reach limited English proficient voters and prospective voters. The Attorney General’s review determined that few Boards of Election were familiar with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act or required greater efforts to ensure meaningful compliance with the law. While two Boards had reasonable plans in place, eight other Boards have agreed to take significant steps to ensure compliance with Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act.

The agreements reached with the Attorney General’s Office will ensure that voters have access to Spanish-language voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, website information, polling place reassignment letters and the Election Day ballot itself. In addition, the Boards have also agreed to recruit and identify sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers and agreed to provide enhanced training for poll workers to ensure that quality language assistance is provided on Election Day.

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.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections joins Boards in Sullivan, Putnam, Dutchess, Schenectady, Ulster, Rockland and Chautauqua Counties in implementing new or significantly improved language access programs in compliance with Section 4(e). Together, the eight counties reached through the Attorney General Schneiderman’s Language Access Initiative stands to benefit close to 40,000 New York State residents.

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Monica Iyer with the assistance of Vincent Bradley, Gary Brown, Michael Russo, Debra Martin and Thomas Trace of the OAG’s Regional Offices, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers and working to promote continued compliance with the Voting Rights Act. To file a civil rights complaint, 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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