A federal judge is requiring 32 counties – including Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties - to provide Spanish-language ballots and other assistance to Spanish-speaking voters in Florida’s March 2020 presidential primary election.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction that follows a similar ruling in September.
In the earlier ruling, Walker required the 32 counties to provide Spanish-language sample ballots but did not require Spanish-language ballots and other assistance, saying there wasn’t enough time before the November 2018 elections.
The ruling Friday goes further in requiring Spanish-language ballots. The case has focused on Puerto Rican voters and part of the federal Voting Rights Act aimed at people who were educated in schools where the predominant language was not English.
It seeks to ensure they are not denied the right to vote in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis last month directed Secretary of State Laurel Lee to begin a rule-making process to address the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish-language voter assistance.
In the 16-page ruling Friday, Walker praised the move by DeSantis but wrote that the issue “is what measures this court must order between now and the effective date of the state’s final rule to ensure that the various jurisdictions comply” with the Voting Rights Act. “Compliance with this order is not optional,” Walker wrote.
“While the vast majority of supervisors of election are upstanding professionals who follow the law and court orders, do difficult but necessary work under tight timelines, and are often subjects of multiple bouts of litigation, there may be some who selectively interpret parts of this court’s orders or otherwise avoid compliance.
This court will not hesitate to use every tool the law provides to enforce this order.” For elections held before March 2020, Walker ordered that elections officials provide Spanish-language sample ballots.
The counties are Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor, and Wakulla.