Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Spanish language ballots

The Gazette reports that Clyde Township, Allegan County is required to print Spanish language ballots. This is despite the fact that nobody uses them.

The township has been tied to a requirement of the federal Voting Rights Act since 1976. That practice isn't going away, even though, in the words of one county official, the township's population ``doesn't really need it.''

Clyde Township is mandated by the federal government to provide a Spanish ballot to voters. The other is Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County.

The 1975 Federal Voting Rights Act Language included the Minority Provision requirement, meant to ensure that language assistance was available at polling locations for citizens with limited English proficiency. The requirement took effect in 1976.

Clyde Township at one time had more Hispanics than non-Hispanics, Allegan County Clerk Joyce Watts said. But now, even those who are of Hispanic descent don't have trouble speaking English, she said. Only 25 Spanish ballots are printed for each election, the minimum required.

In her nearly 18 years as clerk, Watts said, only one Spanish ballot has been requested, and that was by the American Civil Liberties Union when the group was inspecting whether the Spanish ballot was accurate.


Between 1976 and 1992, however, the law was ignored in both Clyde and Buena Vista Townships.

The ACLU filed suit against the townships in 1992. A three-judge panel held that the townships must make Spanish ballots and election materials available to voters.
Was this what the civil rights movement was fought over? I'm sure the zero people who used Spanish language ballots are grateful to the ACLU for defending their civil rights.

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