Saguache Election Ballots to Be Bi-lingual in 2017
New data released earlier this month from the U.S. Census Bureau will require Saguache County to provide election ballots in Spanish in order to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand it.
Saguache was one of three San Luis Valley counties, the list also including Costilla and Conejos counties, which will be operating under that provision until after 2020, when the next census is conducted. Although for Costilla County it is not a change per se, as this area already operates under these VRA requirements.
On December 5, the U.S. Census Bureau released a list of 263 jurisdictions across the nation that must provide language assistance during elections for groups of citizens who are unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process. These determinations are pursuant to specifications, as amended in July 2006, in the Voting Rights Act.
The list, published in the Federal Register, identifies which jurisdictions are covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and must provide language assistance for Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Asian language groups.
The Census Bureau has made these determinations following each decennial census since Section 203 was enacted in 1975. In 2006, Congress specified that the Census Bureau use statistics from the American Community Survey following the 2010 Census to conduct these determinations every five years. The determinations released today use data from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
The 263 covered jurisdictions make up 3.3 percent of the 2,919 counties and 4,943 minor civil divisions that comprise the political subdivisions in the United States which were calculated for the Section 203 determinations. There are 68,800,641 eligible voting-age citizens in the covered jurisdictions, or 31.3 percent of the total U.S. citizen voting-age population.
The 2016 determinations found a total national population of 21,739,327 voting-age citizens subject to minority language assistance that reside in the 263 covered jurisdictions, compared with 19,209,431 and 248 jurisdictions in 2011, an increase of 13.2 percent. The determinations found a total of 16,621,136 Hispanics, 4,760,782 Asians, and 357,409 American Indian and Alaska Native voting-age citizens in the covered jurisdictions.
A complete list of which jurisdictions are covered, including which language minority groups are included, can be found in the Federal Register Notice.
In support of this Federal Register Notice, and as done with past publications of the Section 203 language determinations, the Census Bureau is releasing a set of public files presenting the underlying data used to construct these determinations. This file and information about this file can be downloaded from the Census Redistricting Data program website.