Williamson County, Texas and AALDEF settle federal voting rights lawsuit on interpreters at polling places

Image courtesy of the Williamson County Commis...

Image courtesy of the Williamson County Commissioner's Court (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York, April 22 - The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Williamson County, and the Williamson County Elections Department have settled a federal voting rights lawsuit challenging the Texas state law that requires all interpreters to be registered voters in the county in which they provide language assistance.

In the settlement, Williamson County agreed to revise its Poll Worker Training Guide to allow voters to be assisted by a person of their choice inside the voting booth, consistent with the Voting Rights Act. The county also agreed to retrain poll workers to accept all interpreters, regardless of their registration status, and to maintain a file record of any written complaints received by the county.

Jerry Vattamala, AALDEF Democracy Program Director, said, "We are glad that Williamson County, Texas will enable Asian American and other voters to secure language assistance in exercising their right to vote. We will continue to fight to ensure that the entire state complies with the Voting Rights Act and does not unlawfully restrict voters from choosing an interpreter of their choice."

AALDEF's complaint seeks to enjoin Texas from imposing unlawful restrictions on interpreters, declare the Texas state law invalid, and ensure that Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act is properly enforced. Section 208 provides that voters may choose anyone to assist them at the polls, except their employer or union representative.

One of the plaintiffs, Mallika Das, was prevented from receiving language assistance from her son in the 2014 midterm elections in Williamson County, Texas, because her son was not a registered voter in that county.

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On Dec. 3, 2015, a federal district court denied the motion to dismiss filed by the State of Texas and Williamson County. In a 12-page decision, Judge Robert L. Pitman wrote: "In short, the State Defendants get the VRA wrong. . .the Texas Code Interpretation Provisions, sections 61.031 - 61.036, restrict voter choice in a manner inconsistent with the Federal Voting Rights Act."

The case is continuing against the other Texas state defendants named in the complaint.

Fish & Richardson P.C. is pro bono counsel in this lawsuit.

A copy of the settlement agreement can be downloaded here. More information about the complaint can be found here.