Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered Spanish-language ballots to be provided across Florida. The move comes amidst legal pressure from a number of groups and a judge's order.
The change will affect 32 Florida counties including Sarasota, Manatee and Pasco. A federal judge ruled ahead of the 2018 election that these counties had violated the Voting Rights Act by not printing election-related materials in Spanish, and ordered them to provide sample ballots in the language.
“We heard some feedback from a few voters about them because it was a change that was noticed,” said Ron Turner, the Sarasota County supervisor of elections. “We’ve only had one election that we had those materials available county-wide at least. We’ll see as we go into 2020 the response to the potential for Spanish-language materials.”
The change comes in part due to the influx of people migrating from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
“One of the things with this lawsuit in federal court is this is addressing our individuals, I believe, from Puerto Rico primarily,” said Turner. “That’s not something that’s really identified in our voting records.”
Originally, a number of groups had asked the judge who had ordered the Spanish-language sample ballots in 2018 to make the change permanent. Instead of waiting, DeSantis ordered the changes himself.
“My understanding is that the governor has asked the Florida Department of State to use its rule-making authority to address this issue,” said Turner. “The department would have to draft rule language that would have to be publicly noticed. There would also have to be potentially public meetings or hearings on the rule before it could ever be finally adopted.”
Turner noted that if the change had been implemented in 2018, an additional page would have been needed for the ballot to contain both English and Spanish. This would have created an additional cost for ballot printing and postage. At this point, he said it is hard to predict what the cost will be in 2020.
The 32 counties affected are: Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flager, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Pasco, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Taylor and Wakulla.