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For immediate release: Contact: Ben Kiser
Friday, August 16, 2002 402-471-8675

Bilingual Election Materials Needed in Two Counties

Lincoln - Secretary of State John Gale announced today that two Nebraska counties have received notification from the U.S. Department of Justice requiring them to provide bilingual election materials. Based on census data Colfax and Sheridan counties qualify for their Hispanic and Sioux language minority groups respectively. The language requirements will be effective for the November 5, 2002 general election and all future elections through the next census in these counties.

The Bureau of the Census Director made determinations as to which political subdivisions are subject to the minority language assistance provisions of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. The determinations, based on the 2000 decennial census, mandate language assistance to voters if more than 5% of the voting age citizens are members of a single language minority group who do not speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.

"Based on census data we have been expecting some Nebraska counties to meet the language threshold established in the Voting Rights Act," said Secretary Gale, Chief Elections Officer for the state. "After receiving notice from the Department of Justice, I have offered the assistance of the Secretary of State's office to the county clerks in Sheridan and Colfax counties to help them meet these legal obligations."

Jurisdictions subject to these provisions shall provide election materials in the applicable minority language. In Nebraska, these elections materials will include voter registration cards, notices, forms, instructions, ballots and other material related to the electoral process. In addition, oral assistance will be provided to enable the language minority group to participate effectively in the electoral process. If a language is commonly unwritten, providing oral assistance meets the requirements of Section 203.

"My office and the local election officials will work closely with organizations representing members of the applicable language minority groups to ensure that the materials available provide the best opportunity for their constituency to be effective voters," said Secretary Gale. "In addition, we will have election materials supplied by our office accurately translated and available to these counties and posted on our website for use across the state."

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