Amid increasing right-wing bellowing about illegal immigrants, Ohio's top elections official is defending the practice of providing bilingual ballots.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has released a video, “Bilingual Ballots: A Human Perspective,” that interviews people of Puerto Rican descent in Cuyahoga County.
Under threat of a lawsuit, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections is negotiating with the U.S. Justice Department about using bilingual ballots in the November election. The Justice Department states that bilingual ballots are required under a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits any language barriers for Puerto Rican residents who are educated in predominantly Spanish-language schools in the U.S. Commonwealth.
Puerto Rican natives are U.S. citizens.
A Justice Department analysis showed that Cleveland is the 10th largest jurisdiction on the U.S. mainland with citizens of Puerto Rican descent, with at least 34,000 residents. Of those, at least 6,000 have limited English proficiency. Of Cuyahoga County's estimated 4.4 percent Latino population, nearly 70 percent is of Puerto Rican descent.
But the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has said requiring bilingual ballots could double the cost of printing and mailing ballots, and has resisted the push.
“The United States by its very name is a nation that recognizes diversity as strength,” Brunner said in a prepared statement. “We value, protect and guarantee individual rights, and voting is at the top of the list. That's why over the years, as a country, we have made accommodations and staunchly prohibited discrimination. The current negotiations give us the opportunity to reflect the best of Ohio as a people.”
Brunner continued, “Basic dignity and respect are at the core of civil and human rights. Change is best embraced when we remember its impact on people first.”