Justice Department Announces Agreement Protecting Puerto Rican and Spanish-Speaking Voters in Penns Grove, New Jersey

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today the settlement of a lawsuit against Salem County and the borough of Penns Grove, N.J., alleging violations of the rights of Puerto Rican voters under the Voting Rights Act. The settlement agreement requires the county and borough to ensure that elections are equally open to Latino voters, that Spanish language assistance and materials be available at the polls, and that Spanish-speaking voters be allowed to select the assistor of their choice. One of the concerns that led to the Civil Rights Division’s investigation was that the borough and county were violating the rights of voters who had been educated in Spanish in American-flag schools in Puerto Rico.

The settlement agreement was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey contemporaneously with the complaint and an accompanying proposed order allowing federal observers to monitor election day activities in its polling place. The order still must be approved by the court. "The complaint, which includes allegations of discriminatory enforcement of voter ID laws, is filed to protect Hispanic voters," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Division is committed to vigorously enforcing federal civil rights laws during this important election year and commends the county and borough for promptly and constructively resolving the matter." See, USDOJ.