A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreements With Dutchess And Putnam County Boards Of Elections To Provide Language Access For Voters

As Part Of Statewide Effort, Boards Of Elections Have Agreed To Provide Translated Materials And Ensure Language Access Both On And Before Election Day

Schneiderman: Work Will Help Improve Access to the Ballot Box for More New York Voters In The Years Ahead

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced agreements with the Putnam and Dutchess County Boards of Elections to help ensure equal access for minority language voters. The counties will be taking steps pursuant to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that certain limited-English proficient voters be provided bilingual election-related materials including registration forms, absentee ballots, affidavit ballots and the Election Day ballot, along with language assistance at the polls on Election Day. These efforts are a part of the New York State Attorney General's statewide initiative to ensure that all voters, including Spanish-speaking voters, have equal access to the political process and do not encounter language barriers at the polls. Putnam and Dutchess join Schenectady, Ulster, Rockland and Chautauqua Counties, which have also agreed to implement new or significantly improved language access programs in compliance with Section 4(e).

“Every eligible New Yorker should be able to cast an effective and meaningful ballot, regardless of their language ability. These agreements memorialize the important steps that the Putnam and Dutchess County Boards of Elections will take to ensure that voters receive language assistance and are able to fully exercise their right to vote,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.“Our office is committed to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and will work to ensure that all voters in New York have full and equal access to the ballot box.”

According to Census data, approximately 5.5 million New Yorkers do not speak English as their primary language, and 45 percent of them speak English less than very well. These numbers include 2.7 million New Yorkers who primarily speak Spanish at home, of whom 46 percent speak English less than very well. The numbers illustrate growing language needs across our state. To that end, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office has undertaken a comprehensive examination of the language access efforts of close to a dozen Boards of Elections across the state that serve communities with significant numbers of limited-English proficient Puerto Rican voters pursuant to the Voting Rights Act. The Office is continuing to work with Boards to identify steps and strategies that can help ensure that they are able to meet the language needs of voters in upcoming election cycles.

The agreements with the Dutchess and Putnam County Boards will ensure that voters have access to translated election-related materials, including registration forms, absentee ballot applications, affidavit applications, public notices, polling place reassignment letters, sample ballots and the official Election Day ballot itself. The Boards have also agreed to translate information presented on their websites, ensure that sufficient numbers of Spanish-speaking poll workers are deployed to targeted polling places and provide training for all poll workers regarding the requirements for providing language assistance on Election Day.

Commissioner Frances Knapp of the Dutchess County Board of Electionssaid, “We are committed to providing language access services to the many Dutchess County voters who will have their voting rights enhanced by these efforts.  We look forward to continued work with Attorney General Schneiderman to help ensure that all voters with language needs are able to participate in the process.”

Commissioner Anthony Scannapieco of the Putnam County Board of Electionssaid, “The Putnam County Board of Elections has consistently been at the forefront of efforts to expand voting rights and voting opportunities. We are pleased to have worked with the Attorney General’s Office to expand our language access program and thereby better serve the voters of Putnam County.”

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEFsaid, “Weeks after a major federal election, in which Latino voters participated in record numbers, we are pleased to see that the Attorney General’s Office remains focused on lifting the barriers that will make participation easier for voters in future elections. Boards of Elections around our state are required to provide effective assistance for those voters who are limited English proficient and we applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for making enforcement of the Voting Rights Act’s minority language requirements a top priority.

This initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Monica Iyer and Dariely Rodriguez with the assistance of Vincent Bradley and Gary Brown, Assistant Attorneys General In Charge of the Poughkeepsie and White Plains Regional Offices respectively, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the voting rights of all New Yorkers. If you believe that you have experienced voting discrimination, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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