A federal judge found on Friday that election officials in 32 Florida counties violated the Voting Rights Act by not planning to provide ballots in Spanish for the November elections.
US District Judge Mark Walker criticized election officials for not accommodating some 30,000 Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. His 27-page decision makes a sarcastic reference to the movie "Groundhog Day," noting that Florida officials have repeatedly been accused of violating the rights of voters.
& # 39; Here they are are again. The clock shows 6:00 a.m. begins to sound & # 39; I Got You Babe & # 39; of Sonny and Cher. The inhabitants and visitors of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, are eagerly awaiting the prediction of the marmot, "Walker wrote," and it is alleged that the state of Florida violates federal law in its handling of the elections. "
Voters line up to cast their ballot on August 28, 2018 in Miami
The judge only partially aligned himself with the plaintiffs in the case by requiring 32 of the 67 Florida counties to provide sample ballots in Spanish for the general election, so that voters can check the material by voting on official ballots in English. News Service of Florida reported.
It also ruled that 13 counties with large numbers of Puerto Ricans must provide official ballots in Spanish, but refused to order bilingual workers placed at the polls throughout the state.
US District Judge Mark Walker made reference to Groundhog Day in a scathing decision that convicted Florida election officials of violating the rights of voters
Walker wrote that there was not enough time before the elections to order official ballots in Spanish throughout the state, and he wrote that such a broad mandate would create difficulties for election officials so close to the November 6 vote.
However, the judge pointed out the unique situation of the displaced voters of Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States. UU
"Puerto Ricans are American citizens," Walker wrote. "Unique among Americans, they are not trained primarily in English, and it is not necessary, but, like all US citizens, they have the fundamental right to vote."
"The problem in this case is whether Florida officials, in accordance with the long-standing federal law, must provide assistance to Puerto Rican voters who wish to vote," Walker continued. "According to the clear language of the Voting Rights Act, they must do it."
The lawsuit was filed in August by a coalition of defense groups and a Puerto Rican voter who now lives in Florida. The lawsuit accused Florida officials of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discriminatory voting barriers.
Electoral officials said in court documents that they have made efforts to help Spanish-speaking voters, including the supply of materials in their native language and a guide for voters translated into Spanish.
While Walker did not fully rule in favor of the plaintiffs, he expressed concern about his plight.
"Voting in a language you do not understand is like asking this court to decide the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry." Ineffective, in other words, "Walker wrote." Courts have long argued that the right to vote It includes not only the right to physically enter an electoral college and fill out a ballot, but also the right to understand and understand what is on that ballot. "
People wait in the gas row as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Many Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since the disaster