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Court Says Alaska Must Translate Election Materials Into Alaska Native Languages

By | June 5, 2014 - 5:23 pm

A federal judge says the constitutional right to vote requires the state of Alaska to translate all election materials into Native languages for voters lacking English proficiency.

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The Anchorage Daily News says U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason plans to conduct a 10-day trial this month in a voting rights lawsuit brought by several Native villages and elders with limited English skills.

Gleason denied requests for summary judgment yesterday (Wednesday). She also laid out her standard for the trial, saying that the state is obligated to match all English materials including pamphlets, instructions and ballots with Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Gwich’in translations.

Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar is representing the state in the case, and she says the state will have to prove that its translation efforts measure up to those terms.

“That is the statutory rubric that Judge Gleason has laid out for the parties at trial,” Bakalar said. “She hasn’t made any findings at all about what our program is or does.”

The lawsuit alleges the state is violating language provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act by not providing election materials in their Native languages.

The state defends its Native languages program as robust.

APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez contributed to this story.

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