VOTERS, UNDER AGREEMENT WITH THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1998 CR (202) 616

-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888

NEW MEXICO COUNTY AGREES TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO NAVAJO-SPEAKING VOTERS, UNDER AGREEMENT WITH THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department, a New Mexico county will provide election and voting information in Navajo to their residents, in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. The agreement, filed today with a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, will ensure effective communication for Navajo voters in the Cañoncito Chapter of the Navajo Nation, situated in Bernalillo County. In 1992, Bernalillo County became subject to the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that voting materials be provided in languages other than English when that language is spoken by more than 5% of the voting age population, who are limited-English proficient, and when the illiteracy rate of that group is higher than the national illiteracy rate. Cañoncito, which is located on the Navajo Reservation, is 25 miles west of Albuquerque, the Bernalillo county seat, and has a population of approximately 1,700 residents. "This agreement will ensure that the Navajo-speaking citizens of Cañoncito have a voice in the democratic process," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "The agreement will make all phases of the election process as accessible to the Navajo population of Bernalillo County as they are to the rest of the people in the county." In the consent decree, Bernalillo County agrees to provide information, publicity, and assistance in the Navajo language with respect to voter registration, absentee voting, procedures at the polls, including translation of the ballot, and training of polling officials and translators. Bernalillo County also has developed an operations manual that details the type of information, publicity and assistance to be provided in Native American languages, and the manner in which they will be provided. Besides the portion of the Navajo Reservation, Bernalillo County includes the Isleta Pueblo and the Sandia Pueblo. The people of both Pueblos speak the Tiwa language. The county's procedures would meet the Native American language needs of those people as well. The minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act have been used throughout the country to ensure that citizens who are not fluent in English have the same access to the election process as do other citizens. The Justice Department previously has brought similar lawsuits against, and reached agreements with, four other counties in New Mexico (Cibola, McKinley, Sandoval and Socorro); Apache and Navajo Counties, Arizona; San Juan County, Utah; San Francisco, California (concerning Chinese language); and, more recently, in Alameda County (Oakland), California (concerning Chinese language). # # #

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