State of Elections

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Tag: Alaska State Election

Native Alaskan Voter Language Assistance Implementation

By: Jakob Stalnaker

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance and bilingual election materials to language minority groups. The determinations are made every five years by the Census Bureau. The criteria for coverage include if either (1) more than five percent of voting age population or (2) 10,000 of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority group and do not “speak or adequately understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.” There is an additional provision, covering jurisdictions with more than five percent of American Indian or Alaska Native population residing within an American Indian Area, meeting the same criteria if those citizens do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process” and the rate of individuals in that population who have not completed the fifth grade is higher than the national rate.

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Alaska Natives Afforded Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the single greatest accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  The act bans racial discrimination in voting practices by all levels of government, and was enacted with the specific purpose of enfranchising millions of African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest, as well as those who had been shut out of the voting process because of their lack of English fluency.  Due to its overwhelming success,  the Voting Rights Act is often considered the “most effective civil rights law ever enacted.” Although a major component of the Voting Rights Act was held to be unconstitutional in the case Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, some states are still experiencing the benefits the Voting Rights Act was meant to provide.

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