Lack of Spanish Assistance in Rangel-Espaillat Primary, Group Alleges

Espaillat's loss to Rangel has been mired in allegations of insufficient assistance at polling sites. (Photo from El Diario/La Prensa)

A Latino civil rights advocacy group has complained that Latino voters did not receive “adequate bilingual assistance” during the June 26 Congressional primary in which the Dominican-American State Senator Adriano Espaillat challenged longtime Congressman Charles Rangel, reported the Riverdale Press.

The hotly contested race eventually found Rangel victorious two weeks later on July 10 but not without heated challenges and accusations. The group LatinoJustice claims that it has evidence that Spanish-speaking voters were disenfranchised, Adam Wisnieski reports:

The organization last week appealed to the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the election, with what it claims are new details.

Latino Justice is accusing the Board of Elections of violating the Voting Rights Act, which requires bilingual assistance for Spanish-speaking voters.

Rep. Charles Rangel defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by 1,086 votes, but problems with the Board of Elections sparked an inferno of accusations about voter suppression and election fraud. Many voters complained of having to fill out affidavit ballots.

After the election, LatinoJustice set up a hotline through which voters could report experiences of voting problems. In a July 18 letter to the Department of Justice, LatinoJustice reported that of the 60 ccomplaints to the hotline, a third involved a lack of proper Spanish language assistance at voting sites.

The specific incidents listed include quotes from people saying either nobody spoke Spanish at the site, there were no interpreters or not enough interpreters.

Latino Justice included details of 15 incidents in the letter. Every incident occurred in Manhattan, which contradicts previous claims of a campaign staffer for Mr. Espaillat, who said on July 5 that the reason the suit was filed in Bronx Civil Court was because some of the incidents occurred in the Bronx.

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