Certain voters with limited English proficiency (LEP) are afforded affirmative accommodations under section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 203’s provisions, however, are often critically misunderstood and only partially implemented. The law’s substantial compliance gap stems largely from its complex and fact-specific mandates as well as its requirement that election jurisdictions themselves determine the extent of their own affirmative duties.
In an effort to partially close section 203’s compliance gap and promote universal enforcement of federal election laws, this Note adapts a recent proposal requiring the advance disclosure of federal voting changes to the language assistance context. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, academics and members of Congress have proposed a requirement that all election jurisdictions report to the local media and the government certain changes to their election laws before those changes take effect. This Note modifies and applies this general framework to address the low compliance rates of the VRA’s language assistance provisions.
This proposal requires all covered language jurisdictions to publicly present a section 203 compliance plan six months before an election. It represents a cost-effective way to inform election officials of their particularized legal obligations and to more efficiently leverage third-party resources to ensure that the language assistance provisions are consistently and properly enforced.