State Watch

Judge orders Florida to provide Spanish-language ballots

A federal judge in Florida issued a ruling on Friday directing 32 county election officials to provide Spanish-language ballots, a move that could help more than 30,000 Puerto Ricans in the state vote. 

Reuters reported that Chief Judge Mark Walker of the federal court in Tallahassee ruled that failing to help eligible voters is likely a violation of the Voting Rights Act. 

"Puerto Ricans are American citizens," Walker wrote, according to Reuters. "Unique among Americans, they are not educated primarily in English - and do not need to be. But, like all American citizens, they possess the fundamental right to vote."

The decision comes after several nonprofit groups sued Florida's Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner and the elections supervisor of 32 counties. The groups called for the specific counties to offer bilingual ballots and assistance for non English-speakers, with a focus on the growing population of Puerto Ricans in the state, including those displaced from last year's Hurricane Maria. After the storm, more than 56,000 Puerto Ricans reportedly resettled in Florida.

In his ruling, Walker ordered Detzner to direct election officials to print sample Spanish ballots that mirror their English counterparts, HuffPost reported. He also ruled that election supervisors must provide the sample ballots and polling places with posted notices.  

Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Detzner, told HuffPost that he would order election officials to comply with the ruling. 

Reuters noted that the decision from Walker could be significant given Florida's reputation as a swing state.

It could be additionally impactful with the number of Puerto Ricans who were displaced by Hurricane Maria living in the state. 

"Florida is the world's greatest melting pot, and we don't want any registered voters to not be able to exercise their right because of a language barrier," John Tupps, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), told Reuters.

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