FONDA-The Montgomery County Board of Elections met with representatives of the New York state Attorney General's Office recently to discuss how Montgomery County has made voting easier for Spanish-speaking residents.
The New York Attorney General's Office sent letters to 10 upstate counties telling them to accommodate Spanish-speaking voters from Puerto Rico as required by federal law.
Letters sent this month by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke to the counties' election commissioners note the federal Voting Rights Act requires jurisdictions with significant numbers of Puerto Rican residents with limited English to ensure they can vote. Measures include making all voting materials and ballots available in Spanish and having Spanish-language interpreters available at polling places.
Terrance J. Smith, the Republican election commissioner for Montgomery?County, said the county is working with Centro Civico - a Latino not-for-profit organization based in Amsterdam?- to make sure voters are accommodated. Translators and directions for the ballot in Spanish will be provided by Centro Civico, he said. Smith said he also will search for qualified bilingual election inspectors to hire.
Smith said they were working with Centro Civico on this well before the letter was sent, so they can already use some of the measures to help Spanish-speaking voters from Puerto Rico.
He said there also needs to be a Spanish translation of the Montgomery County Board of Elections website, and he also will search for qualified bilingual election inspectors to hire.
Smith said they will attempt to have a Spanish translation of the county Board of Elections' website up by November.
Smith said the cost to accommodate voters would be negligible.
The New York state Attorney General's Office's representatives were impressed with what Montgomery County has set up thus far, he said.
According to Smith, the request for these changes came as a result of the 2010 census, which showed an increase in Spanish-speaking residents in Montgomery County.
The letters noted that counties without effective plans could face civil liability. The other counties that received the letters are Erie, Monroe, Rockland, Dutchess, Ulster, Chautauqua, Schenectady, Sullivan and Putnam.