The number of communities required by law to help non-English proficient people vote rose to 331 this year, up from 263 in 2016, the Census Bureau announced Wednesday.
This increase reflected the growing number of Hispanics who are eligible to vote but are not fluent in English.
The Census Bureau released its national list of states, counties and communities where non-English speaking constituency populations are large enough to activate protection under the Federal Voting Rights Act that requires language assistance for those voters.
“Not being able to speak or read in English should not be a barrier to exercising the most precious right of a U.S. citizen: the right to vote”said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Educational Fund of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a bipartisan group that works to ensure the participation of Latinos in government and public office.
A total of 24,244,810 citizens of voting age live in these communities, an increase of 223% over 2016 The majority are Latino: about 204 million; 36 million are Asian-American and 236,942 are Native American or Alaska Native, the Census Bureau said.
For a community or county to be subject to the requirement, more than 5% or 10,000 of its citizens of election age must have limited English proficiency, and the rate must be higher than the national
The communities covered by these provisions represent only 41% of the 2,920 counties and 5,120 cities, towns and communities that were considered, explained the Census Bureau.
Language assistance means providing bilingual or multilingual ballots, as well as posting voter registration forms, instructions, or other documents in the languages of major community or county groups.
In essence, the law says that all materials that jurisdictions provide in English must also be provided in the language of the specific group that is not fluent in that language.
This year, the figure includes 68 more communities All states of California, Texas and Florida remain on the list, unchanged from 2016
Massachusetts is the one that has added the most communities: it went from 12 to 19
There are six communities with the most Hispanic voters who are not fluent in English: Clinton, Everett, Fitchburg, Leominster, Methuen and Salem The city of Randolph has more voters of Vietnamese descent
In Arizona, communities that must provide assistance to Native American or Alaska Native populations increased from six to 11
Minnesota added its first Asian community this year
Vargas pointed out that the figures may reflect the migration of people, naturalizations and the number of those who reach the required age to vote. To do so, it is an essential requirement to be a US citizen
The Jim Crow legacy
The Census Bureau identifies communities that must provide language assistance to individuals who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaska Native, or “of Spanish descent,” as set forth in the Voting Rights Act.
The requirements to be able to read and write in English were originally used to prevent black people from voting Slaves were prohibited by law from learning to read, write, or vote, so literacy tests prevented many from voting after emancipation
Jim Crow laws and unequal education continued to prevent Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans from voting.
Literacy tests and language barriers are unconstitutional The Voting Rights Act includes a provision that protects the voting rights of “linguistic minorities”
Vargas cited the example of Puerto Ricans, who are not required to read or write in English if they live in Puerto Rico, where many people speak both languages.
A Puerto Rican who moves to the continental United States and is not fluent in English “is a United States citizen with full franchise and must have free and complete access to the ballot”, regardless of their command of the language
Some communities were delisted in some states In Alaska, 13 communities are required to provide language assistance, up from 15 in 2016
Jurisdictions are determined based on five years of data from the US Household American Community Survey, which collects characteristics of the US population, including citizenship data and English fluency.