William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


Abigail Hylton


This Note will argue that the current federal scheme for determining the baseline resources that a state must provide to voters with limited English proficiency is unconstitutional. Specifically, the Voting Rights Act neglects to require adequate translation and interpretation services for many voters with limited English proficiency. Such failure to adequately support this group of citizens throughout the election process effectively excludes them from the democratic process and deprives them of their constitutional right to vote. Whether this group of voters has access to translated materials currently hinges on the language they speak, their nationality, and their geographic location; the scheme set forth in the Voting Rights Act, therefore, deprives these citizens of their right to equal protection under the law.

Part I will provide background information, including a closer look at the non- English speaking population in the United States. It will also examine the various ways that the federal and state governments have succeeded in expanding -- or have failed to expand -- voting rights for citizens who speak a language besides English, including relevant provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Part II will explain the remaining barriers to access and the problems with the current language assistance system laid out in the Voting Rights Act. Part III will assess whether the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act violate the Equal Protection Clause, using both the Anderson-Burdick test and a more traditional equal protection analysis. Part IV will recommend solutions that could expand access to language resources, while also considering potential counter-arguments and challenges that may stand in the way of implementing lasting change.

This abstract has been adapted from the author's introduction.