Amid a federal court battle involving 32 counties, including several in Northeast Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday directed the state’s elections chief to begin a process to address the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish-language voter assistance.
DeSantis’ office said in a news release that Secretary of State Laurel Lee will start at rule-making process on the issue.
“It is critically important that Spanish-speaking Floridians are able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “Florida has a significant Spanish-speaking population and our state is home to many Puerto Ricans who moved here after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. These fellow citizens should be able to fully participate in our democracy, which is why I am directing the Department of State to address voting accessibility issues for Florida’s Spanish-speaking community statewide.”
As part of a legal battle that started last year, a coalition of groups asked a federal judge Friday to issue a preliminary injunction requiring Spanish-language ballots and election materials in 32 counties for elections starting Aug. 1.
In September, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker required those counties to provide Spanish-language sample ballots but did not require Spanish-language ballots and other assistance, saying there wasn’t enough time before the November elections.
The motion for a preliminary injunction filed Friday seeks to require Lee to direct elections supervisors to take the additional steps.
The case has focused on Puerto Rican voters and part of the federal Voting Rights Act aimed at people who were educated in schools where the predominant language was not English. It seeks to ensure they are not denied the right to vote in Florida.
The counties targeted in the suit are Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor and Wakulla counties.