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NEWS RELEASE: Why Collier County Uses Multilingual Elections Materials


October 01, 2010

For more information contact:

Cyndi Young, Education Coordinator
Supervisor of Elections Office ~ (239) 252-8450

The Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office is always looking for ways to improve the voting experience and your comments are extremely helpful. In view of that, we distribute comment cards to voters during Early Voting and on Election Day. Following the August 24th Primary Election, over 30 inquiries and criticisms regarding the use of multilingual ballots and election materials were received. As a result of these comments, I would like to take this opportunity to explain the preclearance process and why Collier County uses multilingual election materials.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was initially implemented to equalize minority voting in certain parts of the country. Some of the rights created apply universally while other provisions only apply to specific jurisdictions – referred to as ‘covered’ jurisdictions. Collier County is a covered jurisdiction.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is a special provision that requires states and local governments in certain parts of the country to get federal approval (known as "preclearance") before implementing any voting procedure changes – anything from moving a polling place to changing district lines must be precleared through the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under Section 5, a covered state, county or local government entity must demonstrate to federal authorities that the voting change in question does not have a racially discriminatory purpose and will not make minority voters worse off than they were prior to the change – the change will not be retrogressive.

The coverage formula for preclearance applies to any State or political subdivision in which all three of the following conditions are satisfied

(1) Over 5% of the voting age citizens were, on November 1, 1972, members of a single language minority group

(2) Registration and election materials were provided only in English on November 1, 1972

(3) Fewer than 50% of the voting-age citizens were registered to vote or voted in the 1972 Presidential election

In 1975, the Voting Act of 1965 was amended to include rights for language minorities – mandating language assistance in specified languages on any registration, voting notice, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process – including ballots. The U.S. Department of Justice determines which counties and municipalities fall under the guidelines for a bilingual ballot based on census date. If 5% of a county’s residents have limited English abilities, the county is required by federal law to print bilingual ballots.

In Collier County, those languages include Spanish, Miccosukee and Seminole. If the predominant language is historically unwritten, the State or political subdivision is only required to furnish oral instructions, assistance, or other information relating to registration and voting. In Collier County, this applies to Miccosukee and Seminole. It is the policy of the Supervisor of Elections to meticulously comply with all State and federal voting requirements.

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Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building
3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples, FL 34104
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PHONE: (239) 252-8683 ● FAX: (239) 774-9468
EMAIL: Supervisor.Elections@CollierVotes.gov
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