Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced Thursday that he would ensure that Spanish-language ballots are available across the state. The announcement comes after legal pressure from Spanish language and civil rights groups in the state. The governor will be directing the secretary of state Laurel Moore Lee to work with supervisors of elections.
In September of 2018, Judge Walker ordered the state to provide Spanish-language elections materials in 32 counties with Puerto Rican populations. As many as 50,000 people from that U.S. territory have fled to Florida since Hurricane Maria in 2017. The motion guaranteed that voters in the 32 counties would have access to sample ballots, but not actual ballots, stating that there was not enough time before November.
The announcement comes after a motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to require Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee to direct elections supervisors to take the additional steps. The motion, which was brought about by a coalition of groups, would require Spanish-language ballots and materials for elections starting Aug. 1 in the targeted counties.
The DeSantis administration is pledging to begin the process within 14 days and to complete it in time for the 2020 General Election. Besides providing for Spanish-language ballots, officials plan to update polling procedures to cater to Spanish-speaking voters.
“In summary, plaintiffs seek an order preliminarily enjoining defendant Secretary Lee to issue directives and take all other measures necessary to ensure that all election materials in the counties, including but not limited to paper ballots, voting machine ballots, sample ballots, absentee ballots and envelopes, voting guides, voting instructions, polling place signage, election-related websites, and registration materials are provided in Spanish as well as English and to ensure that bilingual workers provide oral assistance with voter registration, absentee voting, and voting at early voting sites and polling places for all upcoming elections on and after August 1, 2019 until this case is finally resolved,” the motion said.
The motion's focus is Puerto Rican voters, and the Voting Rights Act. Many voters were educated in schools in Spanish. The motion seeks to ensure that those voters have equal access to voting.
The counties targeted in the suit 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 counties.