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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Feds may force Pinellas to use bilingual ballots

A rise in the Hispanic population in Pinellas County could trigger a new addition to voting: bilingual ballots.

Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark told the County Commission on Monday that her office has begun preparations for bilingual balloting because Census results showed Pinellas' Hispanic population over age 18 crossed the 5 percent threshold at 6.8 percent. The U.S. Justice Department could then require Pinellas to join 11 other Florida counties, Clark said.

The additional requirement also could add to a ballot expected to run at least two pages due to constitutional amendment contests and legislative races, Clark said. The feds also might require the county to have bilingual pollworkers at polling places.

"We’ve reached out to them (federal officials). We’ve done a lot of preliminary research and leg work on this. This isn’t something we can wait for," Clark said.

The additional cost -- in a year when the budget is being cut -- is uncertain, she said.

"And all of this of course would be an unfunded mandate?" asked Commissioner Norm Roche.

“Ch-ching,” she replied.



[Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 2:03pm]


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