Many communities are needed to provide language assistance to Latino and other voters

Since 2016, the number of Hispanic, Asian American and other voters who do not speak English well has grown.


The number of communities required by law to help people who do not speak English well to vote has risen to 331 this year, from 263 in 2016, the Census Bureau said on Wednesday.

The increase has marked the high number of Hispanics in communities across the country who are eligible to vote but who do not speak English well.

The Census Bureau has released its national list of provinces, regions and communities where the number of eligible voters who do not speak English is large enough to raise security under the Voting Rights Act which requires language assistance for such voters.

"The inability to speak or read English will not be an obstacle to the most respected American citizen right, the right to vote," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, a two-party coalition. which works to ensure Latino participation in government and government office.

A total of 24,244,810 citizens of voting age live in communities, an increase of 22.3 percent from 2016. Most are Latino, about 20.4 million; There are 3.6 million Asian Americans and 236,942 Americans and Alaska Native Americans, according to the Census Bureau.

For a community or region to be under demand, more than 5 percent or more than 10,000 percent of its citizens of voting age must be limited in their knowledge of English, and the standard must be above national level.

The communities covered by the provisions are only 4.1 percent in the 2,920 districts and 5,120 cities, towns and communities under consideration, the Census Bureau said.

Language assistance may mean giving bilingual or multilingual votes, as well as publishing registration forms, instructions or other forms in the languages ​​of prominent groups in the community or region.

In fact, the law states that all services provided by the authorities in English must be provided in the language of the specified group who can speak English, too.

This year’s number includes 68 more communities. All states of California, Texas and Florida remain on the list, unchanged since 2016.

Massachusetts had the largest number of communities added, from 12 to 19.

Six communities with large Hispanic voters who do not speak English well - Clinton, Everett, Fitchburg, Leominster, Methuen and Salem. Another, Randolph city, has a large number of Vietnamese native voters who need language help to vote.

In Arizona, communities that are supposed to provide language assistance to Native Americans / Alaskan Indigenous people jump from six to 11, and Minnesota this year added its first Asian community where they should provide language assistance.

Vargas said the numbers could indicate population migration, environmental degradation and the number of people reaching the voting age. People must be citizens to vote.

Jim Crow's legacy

The Census Bureau identifies communities that should provide language assistance to American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives or "Spanish Valuers," as stipulated in the Voting Rights Act.

The English literacy requirements were originally used to prevent black people from voting. Slaves were forbidden by law to learn to read and write or to vote, so literacy tests prevented many from voting after their release.

Jim Crow's laws and unequal education continued to prevent blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and Indigenous people from voting.

Literacy tests and language barriers are unconstitutional. The Voting Rights Act includes a provision that protects the right of "minority languages" to vote.

Vargas cited the example of Puerto Rican people, who do not have to learn or write English when living in Puerto Rico, where most people speak both languages.

Puerto Rican immigrant to the U.S. and who does not speak English well “is a U.S. citizen. fully accredited and must have free and complete access to the vote ”regardless of language proficiency.

Communities have been listed in some provinces. In Alaska, 13 communities have to provide language assistance, up from 15 in 2016.

Authorities are determined based on a five-year data from the U.S. National Population Survey of U.S. families, which collects U.S. population characteristics, including citizenship data and fluency in English.