WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, June 29, an Iowa court ruled that Iowa’s English-only law does not apply to voting materials and dissolved a previous injunction that prohibited the Iowa secretary of state from providing non-English voter registration forms. As a result of this ruling, counties will now be permitted to provide voting materials — including voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications and ballots — in languages other than English.
This voting rights victory stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa challenging the state’s failure to provide non-English election materials, specifically Spanish language materials, to voters with limited English proficiency. The suit challenged Iowa’s “English-only Law,” which mandates that all political documents from the state “shall be in the English language” unless translated materials are “necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.”
LULAC argued that translating voting materials for Iowans with limited English proficiency falls under this exception of “necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.” The plaintiffs argued that the law specifically “does not apply to voting materials, including ballots, registration and voting notices, forms, instructions, and other materials and information relating to the electoral process, because they are exempt.”
In today’s ruling, the court agreed with LULAC and held that “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.’”
Today’s pro-voter ruling emphasizes the importance of offering voting materials in languages other than English. “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,” the judge wrote.