DOJ increases staff to protect 'right to vote,' ensure states provide multilingual election info

"Any information or assistance that would be offered to voters in English" such as ballots "must also be available in the required language or languages," and the DOJ is increasing staff to ensure states comply.

Updated: December 13, 2021 - 7:55pm

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President Joe Biden's Department of Justice (DOJ) has increased its enforcement decision staff to "protect the right to vote," and to ensure states provide proper language accommodations to minority groups, according to Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights.

Clarke, a controversial Biden appointee, spoke on Monday at the left-leaning Democracy Fund's Language Access for Voters Summit.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Section 203, "materials and information relating to the electoral process must be provided in the language of the applicable minority group, as well as in English," Clarke said.

Areas with more than 10,000 voting-age citizens who speak another language and who have a "limited English proficiency" are covered by the act.

She explained that "any information or assistance that would be offered to voters in English" such as ballots, voter registration forms and instructions on voting by mail "must also be available in the required language or languages."

This applies to more than 24 million voters, a 22.3% increase from 2016, according to the Census Bureau. More than 20 million of these minority language voters primarily speak Spanish.

Clarke told the summit her Civil Rights office "regularly communicates with jurisdictions about their obligations under Section 203 and monitors elections throughout the country to ensure compliance with federal law, including the language minority provisions."

Areas that do not comply with the act may face legal action from the DOJ. "In the past 20 years, the division has brought 35 such cases under the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, including Section 203," she said.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is also stepping up to provide materials in additional languages. According to the White House fact sheet "The Biden-⁠Harris Administration is Taking Action to Restore and Strengthen American Democracy," the DOD plans to send "nonpartisan information" to service members and their families in additional languages before federal elections.