For the first time, the Lynbrook and East Rockaway school districts will provide ballots for May’s budget votes and Board of Education elections in both English and Spanish.
Federal law requires providing Spanish-language translations of ballots and other voting materials, and many districts across Long Island will comply with those rules for the first time during this year’s elections on May 21, including Lynbrook and East Rockaway.
“Throughout the 2019-20 school budget and voting process, the East Rockaway School District will be complying with section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires us to provide all materials in Spanish, as well as English,” East Rockaway Schools Superintendent Lisa Ruiz said. “In addition to what gets mailed home, residents will be able to view this material in both languages on the district’s website.”
Lynbrook Schools Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak said that in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965, that “as a governmental agency within Nassau County, the Lynbrook School District will provide all budget materials and presentations in English and Spanish.”
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires language assistance during elections in states or counties where more than 5 percent of voters or more than 10,000 citizens are members of a language group that understands limited English.
For many years, bilingual ballots have been used in federal, state and county elections, but most school districts have only used English ballots for their elections. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York sent survey forms to districts last year asking about election practices to see which districts comply.
With the legislation comes the expense of translation services, including the creation of bilingual budget brochures to mail to residents in advance of voting, ballot translations and paperwork that includes legal notices, registration forms and directories at polling places.
Though many areas across the 56 school systems in Nassau may have a large number of people who speak languages other than English, such as Korean, Spanish is the only language other than English that is required for election materials in the Nassau-Suffolk region.