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Texas County Settles Suit Over Voter Translator Requirements

by Emil Guillermo /
Image: Super Tuesday voting
A voter walks out of a polling center in Harlingen, Texas, USA, 01 March 2016. People in 12 states are voting in primary elections to determine the candidates for president of the United States of America.LARRY W. SMITH / EPA

Voters in Williamson County, Texas, will have the freedom to choose any translator they like to help them while voting after the county settled a lawsuit filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the organization announced Friday.

The settlement means the county can no longer require that a translator be a registered voter and enables voters to choose who to bring into a voting booth to assist them, AALDEF’s democracy program director, Jerry Vattamala told NBC News.

“The settlement will allow the victim to be assisted by her son or anyone else she chooses,” Vattamala told NBC News. “Her son was prevented in 2014 from helping her because of the Texas law.”

An excerpt of a Judge Robert L. Pitman's opinion in OCA - Greater Houston v. State of Texas.
An excerpt of a Judge Robert L. Pitman's opinion in OCA - Greater Houston v. State of Texas.

Mallika Das was prevented from receiving language assistance from her son in the 2014 midterm elections in Williamson County because her son was not a registered voter in that county, according to AALDEF.

The organization filed suit on behalf of Das and other plaintiffs, claiming the restrictions were a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The settlement assures anyone except for an employer or union official can translate for a voter.

AALDEF has a concurrent suit pending with the state of Texas to make sure the ruling applies to the entire state.

Last December, a federal district court denied the county and the state a motion to dismiss the suit. Judge Robert Pitman wrote in his 12-page decision that the restriction translator choice was “inconsistent with the Federal Voting Rights Act.”

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