National Civil Rights Group Announces Unprecedented Voter Assistance and Protection Effort for Election Day

October 30, 2008 Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has launched an unprecedented voter assistance and protection effort on behalf of Latino voters on the East Coast. More than 100 Spanish speaking lawyers have volunteered to answer calls on Election Day.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, along with the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the National Campaign for Fair Elections, have partnered to organize a Spanish-language voter protection call center in NYC that will field calls from Spanish-speaking voters from across the Eastern United States.

On November 3 and November 4 (Election Day), Spanish-speaking voters can call 1-888-Ve-y-Vota, a bilingual, toll-free national voter information and protection hotline. The hotline can answer simple calls such as “where is my polling place?” as well as complex issues dealing with machine malfunctions, eligible voters who are turned away, and instances of voter intimidation and deception.

Close to one hundred volunteer bilingual attorneys and trained professionals will staff the Spanish-language hotline center, hosted by the Manhattan law firm of White & Case LLP. Volunteers will answer questions and concerns from Latino voters living in states across the East Coast, from Maine to Florida.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF attorneys overseeing the hotline will be documenting voting rights complaints and any obstacles to voting encountered by Latino voters. Attorneys from the organization will also be on the ground in select cities in Florida on Election Day, gathering reports of Latino voter suppression and intimidation efforts.

“We will document any voting rights violations encountered by Latino voters and if necessary will take legal action against those states and localities that fail to comply with the Voting Rights Act and other laws,” said José Pérez, Associate General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has a long legacy of working to protect Latinos’ right to vote. In 1973 LatinoJustice PRLDEF sued the city of New York to force the city to provide language assistance in the form of Spanish-language election materials, ballots and Spanish-speaking election officials at the polling stations. The precedent set in that court victory became the pillar of an amendment to the Voting Rights Act in 1975 which protected the voting rights of all Puerto Ricans who are United States citizens by birth.

“LatinoJustice PRLDEF has a long legacy of safeguarding Latinos’ rights at the polls,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel. “There are now over 9 million registered Latino voters in this country, and we will continue to make sure that those voters have every tool they need to exercise their right to vote.”

Federal Law under the Voting Rights Act requires that certain states and localities accommodate “Language minorities.” Provisions of the act that that apply directly to many Latino voters include:

  • Under Section 4(e), election districts are required to make bilingual election materials and assistance available to any voter born in Puerto Rico who is not proficient in English and seeks assistance.
  • Under Section 208, any voter of any background who is disabled, elderly or unable to read English has the right to request assistance or to bring someone into the polling booth to help the voter cast his or her vote.
  • Under Section 203, election districts are required to make bilingual election materials and assistance available in certain jurisdictions with high minority populations that have been identified by the DOJ and the Census Bureau.

Currently, over 500 political jurisdictions in the U.S. are covered under Section 203.

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