Complaint: Secy. of state lacks required Spanish voting forms | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Complaint: Secy. of state lacks required Spanish voting forms

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 1:20 PM

LET MY PEOPLE VOTE: Maria Hicks, 3rd District Hispanic caucus leader.
  • LET MY PEOPLE VOTE: Maria Hicks, 3rd District Hispanic caucus leader.
Secretary of State Mark Martin hadn't even taken office yet before there was a question about whether he'd follow federal law as it applied to Latino voters. We reported Facebook messages in which state Rep. Donna Hutchinson expressed outrage that the secretary of state's office provided Spanish language voter registration forms. Martin promised to take care of it when he took office.

Hutchinson and Martin were unaware of federal law and Arkansas Constitution provisions that require Spanish-language forms.

Caught in the spotlight, Martin later backtracked on his promise to "take care of it."

But did he ever get right and make sure those forms were provided in his office? The form IS provided on-line. But we got a note the other day that said someone who'd called the office got somebody on the phone who said there were no forms in the office and never had been. A representative of El Latino called back and was assured by spokesman Alex Reed that the caller was misinformed. He said an updated form was being prepared and would be ready soon.

So now comes the Washington County Observer with a report on what Latinos in that part of the state have encountered in voter registration efforts. No Spanish-language forms is what they found locally. The article quotes Maria Hicks, vice chair of the 3rd District Hispanic caucus and a candidate for JP:

“They’re not available … they have no forms in Spanish,” said Hicks, who is running for Washington County Justice of the Peace, District 7. “I was just there today and they said they were working on getting me the Spanish one. I told them it was a violation of the state constitution and they were surprised by that.”

When Hicks had the same problem on Feb. 27, she said she called the Secretary of State’s office and was told that they were working on translating a new version.

“They are going to be made available,” said Alex Reed, a spokesman for the Secretary of State. “What the issue was was they made some changes with the voter registration application, and so we’re working on getting them translated. But we are going to make them available and going to make them available shortly.”

Though there are registration forms online, they are not updated versions and Hicks said it's possible the old versions could be rejected.

“We were not aware that there should be a new form,” she said. “We don’t get a notification if they just reject the form.”

Not so, said Reed, who made assurances that the old versions will still be accepted

We'll follow this until the Arkansas secretary of state confirms it has a new form, both on-line and on paper, as the law and Constitution require. Reed insists to me today the problem has been solved and that Spanish language forms are available, though the office is still in the process of printing updated forms to include a space for e-mail addresses:

We have provided them online, and we have some printed versions. When we changed over the website a couple of weeks ago, we did not transfer either the Spanish or the English version. That has been corrected. The Spanish version is available NOW on the website. We still have some printed applications in Spanish as well. As far as I know, we have not had any requests for them. We routinely go to the counties and ask them what they need, and we deliver it, or ship them. We have some new ones being printed as we speak.

The person that answered that question incorrectly is new, and I have called all parties and personally apologized for the error. I have also worked to inform the election employees of the law in hopes that this will not happen again.

Proof. We have some blank printed Spanish applications that you can come look at if you would like.

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