Iowa Sued Over Failure To Provide Spanish-Language Voting Materials

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa filed a lawsuit in Iowa state court challenging the state’s failure to provide non-English election materials to voters with limited English proficiency. The law at the center of this suit is the state’s “English-only Law,” which mandates that all political documents from the state “shall be in the English language.” This lawsuit focuses on an exception to this law, which states that translated materials are allowed if they 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 argues that translating voting materials for Iowans with limited English proficiency falls under this exception and the court should declare that “because the right to vote is guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and federal law—and because Congress has already determined that native-language voting materials are necessary to secure the right to vote for citizens with limited English-language proficiency—the English-Only Law does not apply to voting materials.”

This lawsuit follows a petition for declaratory order submitted to the Iowa secretary of state in July asking for clarification around the English-only law as it applies to election materials, specifically whether the office can use and accept Spanish-language voting materials and forms. After the secretary responded that a previous court order prohibits the use of non-English voter registration forms, this lawsuit also seeks to dissolve that injunction — which did not address the issue raised here, which is “whether use of non-English language forms [is] required or necessary to secure the right to vote” — to allow the translation of voter registration forms and all voting materials.

The complaint points out that “more than eight percent of Iowans predominantly speak languages other than English. Spanish speakers are the largest language minority in Iowa; there are over 50,000 Iowa citizens of voting age whose predominant language is Spanish.” Outside of two counties that are required by the Voting Rights Act to provide Spanish-language voting materials given their high concentration of Spanish-speaking residents, other voters with limited English proficiency throughout the state must navigate English materials in order to register, cast their vote and generally understand election processes. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.