Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking Florida’s top elections official to ensure that Spanish speakers have access to Spanish-language ballots and voter assistance in the upcoming 2020 election.
He’s asking Secretary of State Laurel Lee to adopt rules that would standardize the requirements for offering bilingual ballots in Florida’s 67 counties. Currently, 46 counties have different rules for voters who speak other languages, according to the governor’s office.
“It is critically important that Spanish-speaking Floridians are able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers,” DeSantis said in a statement Thursday. “Florida has a significant Spanish-speaking population and our state is home to many Puerto Ricans who moved here after the devastation of Hurricane Maria."
The issue of bilingual ballots has been an issue of debate for years, and last week, a coalition of groups asked a federal judge to require 32 Florida counties to offer Spanish-language ballots.
On Thursday, the state filed a notice in the case that it would start the rule-making process within 14 days.
The first rule would require elections supervisors to provide official Spanish-language ballots by the 2020 election, according to the filing. The second rule would update the state’s polling place procedures manual.
After updating the manual, the Secretary of State would propose to have local supervisors “hire and assign poll workers, clerks, assistant clerks, and other election workers who are able to understand, speak, write, and read Spanish fluently.”
Last year, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker required those counties to provide Spanish-language sample ballots, but did not require Spanish-language ballots and other assistance, saying there wasn’t enough time before the November elections.
Lee said in a statement that she looks forward to working with local supervisors.
“I applaud Governor DeSantis for his leadership on addressing the availability of Spanish-language ballots,” Lee said in a statement.
Information from the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.