GM 16-075

Voting Rights Act Native Language Assistance Areas

The Census Bureau published in the December 5, 2016, FEDERAL REGISTER the attached notice updating the list of counties or other political subdivisions which must comply with the requirements of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act concerning minority languages. Assistance is required in the voting process for Native language-speaking persons in portions of: Alaska; New Mexico; Arizona; California; Colorado, Connecticut; Iowa; Mississippi; Texas; and Utah.

In 1975, Congress amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to curb the discriminatory impact of English-only voting where it effectively excluded non-English speaking or “language minority” citizens from the voting process. Section 203 of the Act requires translated election materials, oral interpretation and aid, and other language-sensitive assistance in certain areas based on minority group size and high rates of illiteracy. In 1992, Congress amended Section 203 of the Act to include political subdivisions that contain all or any part of an Indian reservation in which over five percent of the residents are members of a single language group, are limited-English-proficient, and possess have a rate of citizens who have not completed the fifth grade that exceeds the national average.

The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing voting rights under Section 203. Indian tribes in the states listed above may wish to monitor the level of assistance provided.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information or help regarding Voting Rights Act assistance requirements for Native American language-speaking voters.