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Nation's Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Wins Battle to Secure Voting Materials in Spanish When Needed As a Constitutional Right

July 3, 2023
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Washington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announced a significant victory in Iowa in a lawsuit that challenged that state's practices in disseminating voter information only in English, declaring that the official language for conducting Iowa's affairs.

"The decision in LULAC of Iowa vs. Paul Pate et al. marks a historic win for Iowans and the fundamental right to vote," said Jazmin Newton, Iowa LULAC State Director. "I applaud the 5th Judicial District of Iowa in its application of the law to the facts before the court. Democracy wins. I am optimistic for our future and look forward to working with all Iowans to ensure they are civically engaged and exercising their right to vote without unnecessary obstacles," added Newton.

The lawsuit challenged Iowa's "English-Only Law," passed in 2002. That law required all official documents to be in English. However, the statute provided for using a language (other than English) if an individual's constitutional rights were at stake.

"This ruling is a significant step towards promoting inclusivity, fairness, and voter engagement in Iowa," says Nick Salazar, immediate past Iowa LULAC state director. "We applaud the court's decision and will continue our efforts to protect and expand voting rights for all communities in our state. The voices of democracy will echo across the state in more than one language," said Salazar.

The court's ruling this week by District Court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg in Iowa's 5th Judicial District reversed that viewpoint as being legal, stating in part: "It… strains credibility to assert that providing voting materials in another language is not "required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, where a prohibition against English-only elections is codified in a federal law titled the "Voting Rights Act."

"In sum, the undisputed facts, in this case, can lead to only one legal conclusion: official materials related to voting are a use of language that is "necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa. The right to vote is not merely the ability to check boxes on a piece of paper. It is about being able to register, understanding what is on the ballot, and knowing when and where voting takes place. All of these facets are furthered by allowing counties to provide and accept voting materials in non-English languages."

Reaction from Iowa LULAC leaders is positive. "Language should never be a barrier to the constitutional right to vote, and that was upheld by Judge Rosenberg this week," says Joe Henry, LULAC Iowa state political director and former national board vice-president for the Midwest. "As a matter of fact, language matters! Language communicates the right to vote! The voting rights act of 1965 banned the use of literacy tests, and the use of the English-only law in Iowa was a form of a literacy test," said Henry.




The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC's programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/