YORK, Pa. — Less than a week away from election day, voting rights advocates celebrated a victory for Spanish-speaking voters in York County as LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Dechert LLP settled a preliminary injunction on behalf of CASA, a nonprofit civil rights organization, improving Spanish-language access for the upcoming election.
Clients and attorneys in CASA v. York County Board of Elections were joined by over three dozen community members for a press conference on Wednesday to share updates and reactions on the developing agreement in the language access case in York County.
At the press conference, CASA and LatinoJustice PRLDEF announced that the York County Board of Elections committed to providing a number of Spanish-language services to voters to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters, including Puerto Rican voters county-wide, can effectively exercise their right to vote.
During the press conference, impacted York voters and CASA members shared their experiences of lack of language access at the polls in previous voting experiences.
“I was raised in a place that only spoke Spanish, I did not register nor cast my first vote until I was 70 years old and met CASA," said Juan Ortiz, a CASA member and registered voter. "I am very uncomfortable to know that the polling places do not have nor implement language access for Spanish-speaking community members that need it and do not speak English. It is completely difficult for us to cast our vote under those conditions."
In mid-October, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Dechert LLP filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of CASA and Puerto Rican voters against the Board of Elections in York County for their failure to provide Spanish-language materials and assistance as required by the Voting Rights Act.
“Because we talked with our Latino voters almost daily, we found months ago that many voters encountered language access barriers during the last Primary Election celebrated in May, specifically in York,” said Maria del Carmen Gutierrez, CASA’s Senior Director of Membership. “Through voter outreach and people coming forward, CASA has been leading this important people power campaign that all of us need to be proud of, in teamwork with Latino Justice."
“The lawsuit we ultimately filed against York County was the result of the power and courage of CASA’s members, and their willingness to fight for change on behalf of their community," said Rayza Goldsmith, associate council at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
Achieving proper implementation of the language access law sends out a strong message that all voters in York are respected, CASA advocates said.
The injunction settlement requires that York County provide a number of Spanish-language services to voters to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters, including Puerto Rican voters county-wide, can effectively exercise their right to vote.
York County has committed to:
- Providing voters with bilingual ballots or bilingual sample ballots for voters to reference at every precinct in the County;
- Having a Spanish-speaker available by phone at the BOE office from 7 a.m. tp 8 p.m. on election day;
- Deploying as many as 20 bilingual poll workers on election day to assist Spanish-speaking voters in York City;
- Having a Spanish-language translation line that will be up and running on election day;
- Training their Judges of Elections on the Spanish-language resources available to voters, including the translation line;
- Posting Spanish-language signage at every single precinct that directs voters to the translation line and other resources.
“I registered to vote for the very first time in 2020, but to my surprise, there was no guide on how to effectively vote in my language," said Nilsabel Caseres, a CASA member and registered voter. "Implementing a language access law means all of my community members and siblings will proudly go to the poll and exercise their right to vote."