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New Florida initiative looks to make voting easier for Spanish-speaking residents
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New Florida initiative looks to make voting easier for Spanish-speaking residents

New Florida initiative looks to make voting easier for Spanish-speaking residents
Photo Credit: Steven Ponson/WOKV
A sign points the way to a voting precinct in Jacksonville.

New Florida initiative looks to make voting easier for Spanish-speaking residents

Florida's secretary of state is starting to address any potential issues with assisting Spanish-speaking voters in the 2020 elections, and local supervisors say they think they'll be able to adapt by then.

Governor Ron DeSantis this week gave the direction to Secretary Laurel M. Lee to initiate the rule-making process to address the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish-language voter assistance for 2020 and beyond. 

Lee says she looks forward to working with supervisors of elections and others as they move through the process. 

In Duval County, Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips says they are already complying with what he thinks the new initiatives will be. 

"When we were planning for the last election and planning on elections going forward, we went ahead and printed everything in English and Spanish anyway," Phillips says. 

He says the March election was the first one in Duval County where both languages were available at polling locations. He says the upcoming rule changes are something you could see coming because there are already several counties in the state where Spanish ballots were in use. 

A federal court ruling last year required 32 counties to provide sample ballots in English and Spanish after more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida following Hurricane Maria. The official ballots were not required to be in Spanish. 

Now, DeSantis and others are making the push to make voting easier for Spanish-speaking residence permanently. 

"Know that today that effort is being made for the 2020 election season, and by then I'm confident that all jurisdictions will be well prepared," says Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless. 

He says they've started looking for bilingual election workers. He says it's also a misconception that there will be two separate ballots with Spanish and English, but in Clay County they will have both languages on each ballot. 

Chambless says that means some jurisdictions with traditionally shorter ballots could be seeing much longer ones thanks to the extra wording. 

DeSantis says it's important to give Spanish-speaking Floridians the chance to exercise their right to vote, and this new initiative will make it easier for them to participate going forward.

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