36 Texas counties may be violating Voting Rights Act

The counties in question failed to provide voting and elections information online in both Spanish and English.

  • Attorneys for the ACLU of Texas found that 36 counties failed to provide adequate, or any, voting information on in Spanish on their websites.
  • Some counties' websites contained voting information that was misleading or poorly translated.
  • The Hispanic vote could be key to Texas Democrats in upcoming elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas says 36 counties across Texas may be in violation of the Voting Rights Act, a discovery that comes just weeks before the November 6 elections.

The organization issued letters to the counties after determining they hadn't provided adequate voting and elections information in Spanish on their websites. Failing to do so would violate a provision of federal law that requires counties to make such information available in both English and Spanish (or any minority language) in counties where more than 10,000 voting-age citizens, or more than 5% of the voting-age population, are Spanish-speakers with low proficiency in English.

"Counties need to ensure that they are providing all citizens with information that will enable them to vote," said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. "The obligation to provide information in Spanish is a simple but important requirement which helps to remove barriers to voting in the state with the largest number of counties needing foreign language voting materials."

The ACLU of Texas wrote that its attorneys "reviewed county election websites and looked at whether pertinent information was made available in Spanish, including voter identification information, key voting dates, voter registration information, and applications for ballot by mail and absentee voting."

Their findings showed that 36 Texas counties offered inadequate, poorly translated, misleading or simply no voting information available in Spanish on their websites. For example, the ACLU reports that one county had translated "runoff election" as "election water leak" or "election drainage."

Some counties appear willing to update their websites.

"Several counties have already responded positively to the letters, agreeing to comply with the Voting Rights Act and include Spanish language voting information on their websites," the statement read.

​Hispanics could be key to a "blue wave" in Texas

Texas is home to about 28 million people, about one-third of whom speak Spanish at home. The state has more majority-Hispanic counties than any other in the nation, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before Hispanics become the largest population group throughout all of the Lone Star State, according to recent census data.

Texas has historically been a red state. However, the data suggest Hispanics in Texas mostly voted Democrat in recent elections. In 2016, for instance, Hispanics vastly preferred Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by a margin of 80% to 16%, according to the polling group Latino Decisions.

As American politics have become increasingly polarized, particularly in relation to anti-immigration rhetoric on the right, some have suggested Texas might see a "blue wave" in upcoming elections. But, as Richard Parker notes in an opinion column for Dallas News, that would require Democrats to rally the Hispanic vote.

"To win, Democrats need to run Hispanic candidates and speak to Hispanic voters. That means, yes, being fluent in the language of immigration. Fairness and justice matter.

But so do good jobs, good pay, good education and decent health care. Yes, Latino voters want fairness in a country that has turned bitter and resentful. But they also want the same thing as everybody else: A decent shot at doing better than their parents. And the polling shows that.

That is the difference between a wave and a trickle."

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