Alameda County Settles Lawsuit Over Bilingual Voter Help

ALAMEDA (KCBS)— The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced a settlement over a lawsuit alleging Alameda County failed to provide adequate assistance for Spanish and Chinese-speaking voters.

The lawsuit, filed last Friday, alleged the county didn’t train enough Chinese and Spanish speakers to serve as poll workers and help voters on Election Day.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

Alameda County had been negotiating with the U.S. Department of Justice for the past few months on how to provide language assistance during elections.

Alameda’s Chief Assistant County Counsel Donna Zeigler said the department developed a formula basing the number of poll workers needed on the number of Spanish and Chinese sounding surnames of registered voters.

“Obviously everyone who has a Spanish surname doesn’t need a bilingual ballot, but that’s the method that the Department of Justice is seeking to enforce,” Zeigler said.

Contra Costa County registrar Steve Weir said his and other counties use census data to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

“Surnames in Contra Costa don’t really do it because we have a tremendous surname for Spanish and yet less than half the percent of my roll has asked to have a Spanish ballot,” he said.

Alameda County has also agreed to add English translations on its Spanish and Chinese ballots.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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