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electionlineWeekly — April 30, 2015

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Section 203 covered jurisdictions often struggle to comply
Stanford Law Review note offers potential solutions for compliance

Although the Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, voided large portions of the Voting Rights Act, important provisions of the Act remain in place. 

Among them is Section 203, which requires certain jurisdictions to conduct bilingual elections to accommodate voters whose first language is not English.

One of the most recent Section 203 cases was in Alaska where the state was sued by a group of Native speakers — Yup’ik and Gwich’in. The plaintiffs argued, and a federal judge agreed, that the state didn’t do enough to help voters with limited English proficiency gain access to information.

Many jurisdictions that fall under Section 203 have struggled to comply with the law.

Matthew Higgins a JD candidate at the Stanford Law School (2015) has written a note for the Stanford Law Review focusing on how reporting requirements could be a potential solution to the compliance gap with Section 203.

What follows is Higgins’ abstract on his Note as well as a links to the Note itself:

Certain voters with limited English proficiency (LEP) are afforded affirmative accommodations under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Section 203’s provisions, however, are often critically misunderstood and only partially implemented.

The law’s substantial compliance gap stems largely from its complex and fact-specific mandates as well as its requirement that election jurisdictions themselves determine the extent of their own affirmative duties.

In an effort to partially close Section 203’s compliance gap and promote universal enforcement of federal election laws, this Note adapts a recent proposal requiring the advance disclosure of federal voting changes to the language assistance context.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision inShelby County v. Holder, academics and members of Congress have proposed a requirement that all election jurisdictions report to the local media and the government certain changes to their election laws before those changes take effect.

This Note modifies and applies this general framework to address the low compliance rates of the VRA’s language assistance provisions.

This proposal requires all covered language jurisdictions to publicly present a section 203 compliance plan six months before an election.

It represents a cost-effective way to inform election officials of their particularized legal obligations and to more efficiently leverage third-party resources to ensure that the language assistance provisions are consistently and properly enforced.

To read Higgins’ complete note, click here.