Plaintiffs in a voting rights lawsuit are reacting to news that a Federal Court Judge has ruled in their favor. Wednesday a judge ruled that the State of Alaska violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to provide translations into Native languages.
Judge Sharon Gleason found the State of Alaska violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to provide translations of voting materials to voters whose primary language is Gwich’in or Yup’ik.
Benjaman Nukusuk is the Tribal Chief for the Native Village of Hooper Bay, a plaintiff in the case.
“I was very pleased because the elders of the Y-K Delta want to know what they’re voting on and who they’re voting for and why and our elders by nature are very articulate and precise in what that want, especially when it comes to things that matter for our people and the things of our Y-K Delta.”
Judge Gleason issued the partial decision after presiding over a two-week trial in June and July. Native American Rights Fund Attorneys argued the state’s voting materials in Yup’ik and Gwich’in were inaccurately translated and poorly distributed. NARF Attorney Natalie Landreth says the law the state was supposed to be following passed in 1975.
“We’re obviously extremely pleased and relieved but the reality is that the case, the decision and the changes that it’s supposed to bring are 40 years overdue.
JudgeGleason gave the state until Friday to indicate what changes they can make before the November 4th general election. Landreth says she hopes the state will deliver comprehensive translations.
“There’s a hundred-page voter information pamphlet that goes out every election in English and the reality is that Yup’ik speaking voters are entitled to all of that information before they go vote and so what we want to see is some plan to make sure that Yup’ik speaking voters will learn about the candidates, the ballot measures, the bond measures, the judges, everything on there.”
The Department of Law has said it will work with the Division of Elections to draft a proposal. Judge Gleason has not yet ruled on whether the state intentionally violated voter’s rights on the basis race or color.