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Election Advisory No. 2019-09

To: County Clerks/Elections Administrators and County Chairs
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: June 25, 2019


Minority Language Requirements

This advisory is to remind you of the minority language requirements that apply to elections in Texas. State and federal laws require all voting materials to be translated into Spanish statewide,and require the appointment of bilingual clerks in certain election precincts. The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has advised this office that they will continue to closely monitor compliance in each county with these bilingual election requirements. Texas election law has required bilingual election materials and bilingual clerks since 1975, and most counties have readily complied with their obligations under federal and state law.

Appointment of Bilingual Election Clerks

State law requires the presiding judge of an election precinct to make reasonable efforts to appoint a sufficient number of election clerks who are trained and fluent in both English and Spanish to serve the needs of the Spanish-speaking voters of the precinct, if five percent (5%) or more of the inhabitants are persons of Spanish origin or descent. Tex. Elec. Code § 272.009.  Federal law requires that all assistance relating to the electoral process be provided in English and Spanish.  52 U.S.C. 10303(f)(4) and 52 U.S.C. 10503.

While state and federal laws contain general mandates concerning the obligation to provide bilingual clerks, these laws do not specify the number of bilingual clerks that must be appointed in each affected precinct.  Our office recommends that not less than one bilingual election clerk be appointed for each election day precinct (i.e. polling place) in which Spanish-surnamed voters comprise five percent (5%) or more of the population of the election day precinct. You should note, however, that in some of these affected precincts, one bilingual clerk may not be sufficient to serve the needs of the Spanish-speaking voters, especially in polling locations where county election precincts are combined, or when new voting machines or other changes are likely to prompt additional questions from voters. It shall remain the responsibility of the county to determine in its sole discretion the proper number of bilingual clerks to serve its Spanish-speaking voters.  

Please be advised that several Texas counties have entered into consent agreements with the DOJ to appoint bilingual workers pursuant to the election day precinct guidelines below.

Number of Spanish-surnamed Voters Number of Bilingual Election Officials
100-249 1
250-499 2
500 or more 3

You are not obligated to follow these ratios. We share this information only for guideline purposes, and you must determine if these guidelines are appropriate for you county. 

TEAM offers a Bilingual Election Workers Report that provides assistance in determining how many bilingual election workers will be needed for a given election day precinct based on the Hispanic population of the county election precinct. This report presents details for any county election precinct where registered voters with Hispanic Surnames comprise at least 5% of the county election precinct’s population. County election precincts reported may be broken down into three categories: (1) precincts with 100–249 Hispanic surnamed registered voters; (2) precincts with 250–499 Hispanic surnamed registered voters; and (3) precincts with 500 or more Hispanic surnamed registered voters. The report also provides percentages of Spanish surnamed registered voters in your county’s election precincts to help you to determine the appropriate number of bilingual election officials needed at each affected election day precinct. If you have questions regarding your county’s data, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the voter registration staff.

In addition, please remember to appoint an adequate number of bilingual clerks during early voting. If the number of bilingual election clerks appointed to serve during early voting is insufficient to serve the number of Spanish-speaking voters in that election, the authority appointing election judges for the election must appoint at least one bilingual clerk to serve at a central location. Tex. Elec. Code § 272.009. This bilingual clerk must be able to communicate via telephone to any affected precinct.

Finding bilingual election clerks can be a challenge. The following suggestions may assist you in recruiting bilingual election clerks:

Translation of Bilingual Election Materials

Pursuant to state and federal law, all election materials prepared for voters in English must also be provided in Spanish, and any other required minority languages. The bilingual requirement applies to instruction posters, ballots, official affidavits and other forms requiring voter’s signature, early voting materials, and all other election information provided to voters in English. Tex. Elec. Code § 272.005, 52 U.S.C. 10303(f)(4) and 52 U.S.C. 10503.

In addition, the DOJ offers some advice for complying with the federal Voting Rights Act in its letters to the State and Counties and in the Code of Federal Regulations. Some of their suggestions are as follows:

We hope that by reminding you of the state and federal bilingual election requirements, you will be able to appropriately respond to any potential inquiries or monitoring visits by DOJ officials or any other interested party. If you have any questions about the information in this advisory, please contact the Elections Division at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683).

Counties that Use the Countywide Polling Place Program

In regards to voter accessibility, counties using the countywide polling place program should appoint bilingual workers for polling places based on a registered surname analysis of the election day precinct where the polling place will be located, as well as a historical analysis of surname voting at that election day polling location. The county should also have language interpreters available by phone should language assistance arise at a polling place that does not have an interpreter available.