Correa v. Grossi, 458 N.J.Super. 571 (2019)

1.1.19

In 2019, Pashman Stein Walder Hayden filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) in a voting rights matter, resulting in a published Appellate Division decision ensuring the rights of bilingual registered voters.

According to N.J.S.A. 19:23-22.4, sample ballots must be printed in both Spanish and English where 10 percent of an election district’s registered voters’ primary language is Spanish. Because Dover met that threshold, the county clerk sent bilingual sample ballots to registered voters. When it came time to print official election ballots, however, the county clerk argued that there was no requirement to print bilingual ballots because N.J.S.A. 19:23-22.4 referred only to sample ballots and not official ballots. Unfortunately, the trial court accepted this argument.

In the Appellate Division, ACLU-NJ argued that N.J.S.A. 19:23-22.4 must be read together with N.J.S.A. 19:63-7, which requires that mail-in ballots “shall be as nearly as possible facsimiles of the election ballot to be voted at the election.” It further explained why bilingual ballots are necessary to protect the rights of voters who do not speak English and that the right to vote must encompass the right to understand the election ballot.

The Appellate Division reversed the trial court and issued an opinion that closely matches the arguments advanced by ACLU-NJ. Citing the legislative intent to be informed about the candidates and issues that are on the ballots, and the fundamental right to vote, the court empowered Spanish-speaking voters who were otherwise disenfranchised. The case ensures that in districts where the primary language of at least 10 percent of registered voters is Spanish, both the sample and official ballots must be printed bilingually in English and Spanish.

Press Coverage

Election ballots have to be in Spanish, not just the sample ballots, court rules | NJ.com | April 12, 2019
NJ appeals court strikes down English-only election ballots | Daily Record | April 10, 2019
Mail-In Ballots Must Be Bilingual, New Jersey Court Says | Court House News Service | April 8, 2019
NJ Ballots Must Be Bilingual In 10% Spanish-Speaking Towns | Law360 | April 8, 2019

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