TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) - A federal judge on Wednesday heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to require 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish-language ballots and other materials to Puerto Ricans who are eligible to vote in the state.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker is considering a request from plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction that would require the ballots and assistance for what are believed to be more than 30,000 Puerto Ricans in the state, some of whom relocated to Florida following last year’s Hurricane Maria.
The plaintiff’s arguments focus on part of the Voting Rights Act aimed at people who were educated in schools where the predominant language was not English.
However, attorneys for the state and county supervisors of elections want Walker to deny the proposed preliminary injunction.
They dispute the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.
Additionally, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley feels it would be nearly impossible to comply with the requested changes before the November elections.
“Certainly, to do it right and to make sure there are no problems, testing is absolutely required," said Earley. "Planning, testing, having trained staff and educating our public as to what it would mean to be getting a bilingual ballot; I think that is all a hurdle that we have no time to prepare for.”
Earley says the first ballots for the November election are supposed to be mailed out by Sept. 22.
The potential class-action lawsuit was filed in August by a coalition of groups, with Alachua County resident Marta Valentina Rivera Madera as the named plaintiff.
The motion for preliminary injunction contends the 32 targeted counties have not provided Spanish-language ballots in recent elections and “provide little to no Spanish-language election materials or assistance.”