York County reaches agreement over bilingual poll workers, sample ballots

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County agreed to make bilingual sample ballots available at every precinct and provide additional interpreters for Tuesday's election, thus lifting — at least for now — the threat of a preliminary injunction by several voting rights groups.

"It's critical that our community knows their rights under the law," Rayza Goldsmith, an attorney for LatinoJustice, said in announcing the agreement.

The measures were met with chants of "Si se puede" and "Si se pudo" — "Yes, we can" and "Yes, we did" — during a Wednesday afternoon rally organized by CASA and LatinoJustice.

CASA, a grassroots organization that advocates for Latinos and immigrants, filed a lawsuit Oct. 19 alleging the York County Board of Elections had not done enough for Spanish-language speakers in the county. While the preliminary injunction was withdrawn, the lawsuit continues.

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In addition to its pledge to make more bilingual sample ballots available, Goldsmith said York County promised to install a Spanish-speaking person at the Board of Elections to assist those with questions, Spanish-language signs at every precinct and additional bilingual poll workers at districts with large numbers of Spanish-speaking voters.

"CASA withdrew their request for a preliminary injunction after we worked collaboratively with them to address their concerns and to improve our processes for the upcoming election," York County Chief Clerk Greg Monskie said Wednesday.

LatinoJustice attorney Rayza Goldsmith speaks at a CASA press conference Wednesday, November 2 in York City.

CASA senior director of membership Maria del Carmen Gutierrez said the organization will monitor York County's implementation of the changes, as well as continue its Get Out The Vote efforts and making sure voters know their rights.

Juan Ortiz Torres, a 72-year-old York County resident, said through a translator that he learned the importance of casting his vote from CASA.

"Here I am today to assure that I vote in this election," he said. "I am very uncomfortable to know that the polling places do not have or implement language access for Spanish-speaking community members that need it and do not speak English."

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It's difficult to cast a vote under those conditions, Ortiz Torres said.

Goldsmith said CASA raised the issues with both Lancaster County and York County. While Lancaster County reportedly worked with CASA, Goldsmith alleged York County did little to address CASA's concerns after an initial meeting.

"The [new] agreement takes into account the fact that York County can't simply reprint every single ballot and make it bilingual before Nov. 8, so a more reasonable remedy to that is having sample ballots available," she said. "But we would like to see Spanish-language ballots at all 161 precincts."

Ortiz Torres said everything had been a big journey and success.

"Thank you to collective people power for bringing this victory home," he said

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.