|TO:||County Clerks/Elections Administrators and County Chairs|
|FROM:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|DATE:||February 5, 2010|
|RE:||Bilingual Election Official Requirements for the Primary Election|
This advisory is to inform you of the minority language requirements that apply to elections in Texas. State and federal laws require all written materials to be translated into Spanish statewide, and require the appointment of bilingual clerks in certain election precincts. The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has advised this office that they will continue to closely monitor compliance with these bilingual election requirements to determine compliance in each county. Texas election law has required bilingual election materials and bilingual clerks since 1975, and most counties have readily complied with these requirements. However, in light of additional attention on this issue, I thought it would be helpful to remind you of your bilingual election duties.
Enclosed with this memorandum is information concerning the number of Spanish-surnamed voters in each precinct in your county. This information should prove helpful to County Clerks/Elections Administrators and County Chairs for purposes of better identifying those precincts that will require Spanish-speaking clerks. Please note that some counties may receive no reports in the event that the number of Spanish-surnamed voters falls below the guidelines.
Appointment of Bilingual Election Clerks
State law requires the presiding judge of an election precinct to make reasonable efforts to appoint a sufficient number of election clerks who are trained and fluent in both English and Spanish to serve the needs of the Spanish-speaking voters of the precinct, if five percent (5%) or more of the inhabitants are persons of Spanish origin or descent. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 272.009 (Vernon 2003). Federal law requires that all assistance relating to the electoral process be provided in English and Spanish. 42 U.S.C. 1973b(f)(4) and 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a. (2003).
While state and federal laws contain general mandates concerning the obligation to provide bilingual clerks, these laws do not specify the number of bilingual clerks that must be appointed in each affected precinct. My office recommends that in those election precincts, not less than one bilingual election clerk be appointed for each election precinct in which Spanish-surnamed voters comprise five percent (5%) or more of the population of such precinct. You should note, however, that in some of these affected precincts, one bilingual clerk may not be sufficient to serve the needs of the Spanish-speaking voters, especially in polling locations where precincts are combined, or when new voting machines or other changes are likely to prompt additional questions from voters. It shall remain the responsibility of the county to determine in its sole discretion the proper number of bilingual clerks to serve its Spanish-speaking voters. A report is enclosed which reflects those precincts in your county with 5% Spanish-surnamed voters. This report is titled “Number of Bilingual Workers by Percentage.”
For purposes of providing a guideline for counties to use in making the foregoing determination, we note that several Texas jurisdictions have entered into separate consent agreements with DOJ in which the counties agreed to appoint bilingual election workers according to the following ratios:
|Number of Spanish-surnamed Voters||Number of Bilingual Election Officials|
|500 or more||
You are not obligated to follow the ratios applied in Ector or Hale Counties. We share this information only for guideline purposes. A report is enclosed which reflects the number of bilingual election officials per precinct based on the guidelines adopted in consent decrees previous. (This report is titled “Number of Bilingual Election Workers By County.”)
For each County Clerk/Elections Administrator who receives this memorandum, we have enclosed information concerning the Spanish-surnamed voter population in the election precincts in your county in order to help you to determine the appropriate number of bilingual election officials needed at each affected precinct. If you have questions regarding your county’s data, please contact a member of the voter registration staff at 1-800-252-2216.
In addition, please remember to appoint an adequate number of bilingual clerks during early voting. If the number of bilingual election clerks appointed to serve in an election is insufficient to serve the number of Spanish-speaking voters in that election, at least one bilingual clerk must be appointed to serve at a central location. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 272.009 (Vernon 2003 & Supp. 2009). This bilingual clerk must be able to communicate via telephone to any affected precinct.
Translation of Bilingual Election Materials
Pursuant to state and federal law, all election materials information that is prepared for voters in English must also be provided in Spanish, and any other required minority languages. The bilingual requirement applies to instruction posters, ballots, official affidavits and other forms requiring voter’s signature, early voting materials, and all other election information provided to voters in English. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 272.005 (Vernon 2003), 42 U.S.C. 1973b(f)(4) and 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a. (2003).
We hope that by reminding you of the state and federal bilingual election requirements, you will be able to appropriately respond to any potential inquiries or monitoring visits by DOJ officials or any other interested party. If you have any questions about the information in this advisory, please contact the Elections Division at 1-800-252-2216.
Enclosure to County Clerks/Elections Administrators Only