Cuyahoga Board of Elections to enter agreement with US Dept of Justice to accommodate Puerto Rican Voters

Submitted by briancummins on Wed, 09/01/2010 - 17:51.


In a historic tie braking vote, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner voted to have the Cuyahoga Board of Elections enter into agreement with the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide additional voting access and accommodations for Puerto Rican voters residing in Cuyahoga County. 

The actions come from over a year of investigations into the county’s adherence to the guarantees provided under the 1965 voting Rights Act (4.e.) to limited-English proficient voters who are U. S. citizens educated in Spanish in schools in Puerto Rico.

The Board split on party lines with Republicans Rob Frost  and Jeff Hastings (Chairman) voting against the agreement and Democrats Sandy McNair and Inajo Davis Chappell voting for it.  Previous to the vote on entering onto the agreement, Rob Frost made a motion that was approved unanimously to take more limited actions immediately for the September and November elections.   Frost and Hastings wanted to take a more limited approach that would of sought to provide bilingual ballots only to precincts that by the census verification have a minimum of 100 Hispanic surnames.  The Department of Justice has argued that such an action would fail to meet the requirements of the law. 

In terms of immediate actions - the Board has already prepared sample ballots that are available on-line and that will be available at a limited number of polling locations for the September and November elections.  For the November election the Board will prepare bilingual ballots for 71 precincts, primarily located in the City of Cleveland.

The agreement with the DOJ will require bilingual ballots be prepared for the entire county by next spring.

In testimony today it was stated that Cuyahoga County is the first county in Ohio to take such measures on behalf of Puerto Rican voters.  A similar case was cited for the City of Philadelphia in 2007.  The agreement will be in effect until 2014 at which time the parties expect that the County will be in full compliance of the law.  Also mentioned at the meeting was a Plain Dealer report that the DOJ stated caught their attention in 2004 – see citation referenced below.

When commenting on the proceedings, Jose Feliciano  of the Hispanic Round Table stated that without the Justice Department’s actions the actions being taken currently would likely not have occurred.   Recent complaints about the DOJ’s short-notice demands were undermined by the DOJ’s claims of multiple requests for information over the past year specifically related to the 1965 law, section 4.e.  The point being that the BOE has had plenty of time to consider actions to get into compliance.  The agreement reached today with the help of Secretary of State Brunner will ensure that.


The September 1st, 2010 U.S.A & Cuyahoga BOE agreement (20 page PDF)

Voting Rights Act info – see 4.e.:

Cuyahoga county Board of Elections
Sample Bilingual Ballots(Spanish) 09/07/2010
Las Papeletas de Muestra Bilingüe (Español) 07/09/2010

  • County Council District 2 (Cleveland Ward 18, Precinct E and G)
  • County Council District 3 [except Cleveland 15P] (Cleveland Wards 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17)
  • County Council District 4
  • County Council District 7 (Cleveland Ward 3 and Precinct 8C)

Cuyahoga election board agrees to limited bilingual ballots this year, countywide use next year
Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer, Wednesday, September 01, 2010, 4:35 PM

Voter groups fear Election Day chaos Area ‘hot spots’ show big rise in registrations
Plain Dealer, Olivera Perkins, Friday, October 22, 2004
[Available online via the Cleveland Public Library, Database – Plain Dealer search tool]

United States v. City of Philadelphia, PA (E.D. Pa. 2007)

( categories: )

Context - 1965 Voting Rights Act & Puerto Rico


The following was posted as a comment on the Plain Dealer blog —

To be absolutely clear the agreement approved tod ay will ensure the Board of Elections is in compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, section 4.a. It specifically address the rights that U. S. citizens, having been born in Puerto Rico, and advanced to at least 6th grade in a Spanish speaking school be accommodated for voting purposes.

A little history and facts about the background to this — (ref: -&-

The “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico” was established following the US invasion of the Island in 1898 as part of the Spanish-American War. Spain ceded Puerto Rico among other territories under the Treaty of Paris.

In 1917, Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens via the Jones Act. The same Act also provided for a popularly elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly, a bill of rights and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner to a four-year term. As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation in which a national military draft was in effect. There is a very proud history of Puerto Rican service in the the U.S. military since World War I.

Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a nonvoting delegate, formally called a Resident Commissioner (currently Pedro Pierluisi).

While residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. Puerto Ricans who become residents of a U.S. state can vote in presidential elections.

I bring all of this up to clarify that what took place today was long overdue. There were reports in the Plain Dealer of voting rights allegations concerning Puerto Ricans within the County back in 2004 – see my brewedfreshdaily post, link below.

This specific issue has nothing to do with immigrants or immigration. It is all about a 1965 Federal Law and voting rights of U. S. citizens born in Puerto Rico, a U. S. Commonwealth.

I represent some 11,000 Hispanic/Latino residents in Cleveland, of which 7,000 to 8,000 are from Puerto Rican descent. Today was a very important and historic day for them and the entire Puerto Rican community in Cuyahoga County – some 30,000 to 40,000 people.



Can you please find time out of your busy blogging schedule to return my phone call that I left one week ago today?


Hope you are feeling better, from yesterday....Hope Mr. Cummins has time to "read" your message....

contact info

lmiller -- please email me your phone number as the one I have from your message was apparently copied down wrong - it does not work.  I've also sent you an email with my cell number.  Hope we can connect soon.

Thank you.

Brian J. Cummins
Cleveland City Council, Ward 14