Hispanics Philly fight federal poll monitors
Oct. 27 2006
The Associated Press
Arizona | Published: 10.27.2006
— City officials and Hispanic community leaders objected Thursday to the
federal government's plans to put monitors at city polling places on
Election Day, saying those efforts could discourage people from voting.
The Justice Department this
month asked a federal judge to authorize appointment of monitors beginning
with the upcoming Nov. 7 election and ending in 2009.
The government accused the
city of failing to provide sufficient election materials in Spanish and not
recruiting enough bilingual poll workers.
But City Solicitor Romulo
L. Diaz Jr. said at a news conference Thursday that the federal government
could not guarantee him that federal monitors wouldn't follow voters into
It would be better to
appoint local monitors, he said.
The Justice Department said
Thursday that monitors would not enter the booths without voter permission.
"No federal observers would
ever enter a voting booth unless specifically requested by and with the
expressed permission of a voter, and to suggest otherwise is just untrue,"
spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Still, local attorney Luis
P. Diaz, who attended Thursday's news conference with other community
leaders, said that "we're very, very concerned about having Big Brother
taking care of us."
The federal lawsuit
contends the city violated the federal Voting Rights Act by allowing only
poll workers — some of whom did not speak Spanish — to help Hispanic voters
The law permits voters who
require assistance to request help from someone they know.
Diaz, the city solicitor,
said Philadelphia has been helping to accommodate non-English speakers at
the polls for more than three decades.
The city plans to recruit
about 200 translators to help at the more than 150 polling places expected
to need translation services this year, he said.
About 10 percent of
Philadelphia's 1.4 million residents are Hispanic, according to 2004 Census
figures cited in the suit.
But the government
estimates that about 36 percent of voting-age Hispanics in the city have
limited English skills.