State of Alaska, NARF, Northern Justice Project and ACLU Reach Settlement in Yup'ik Language Voter Assistance Case

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, ACLU national, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Alaska, (907) 263-2002 or 230-0665
Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund, (907) 276-0680 or 360-3423

State of Alaska, NARF, Northern Justice Project and ACLU Reach Settlement in Yup'ik Language Voter Assistance Case

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The
Alaska Attorney General's Office today joined the Native American
Rights Fund (NARF), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Northern
Justice Project, four Alaska Native elders and four tribal governments
in announcing a settlement of litigation in Nick, et al. v. Bethel, et al.
According to the settlement, the state of Alaska will make enhancements
to language assistance for Yup'ik-speaking voters available at
elections in the Bethel area.

The resolution of the case,
originally filed in June 2007 on behalf of Alaska Native elders Anna
Nick, Billy McCann, Arthur Nelson and David O. David and the tribal
governments of Kasigluk, Kwigillingok, Tuluksak and Tuntutuliak, was
welcomed by all parties involved.

"We are committed to equality under
the law and fair voting practices and effective access to the voting
booth for all Alaskans," said Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan. "We
will vigorously implement the terms of this settlement."

The settlement recognizes
improvements to language-assistance protocols implemented by the state
during the 2008 and 2009 elections, while providing for enhancements
designed to ensure that limited-English-proficient voters receive
effective assistance.

"We are extremely pleased the state
of Alaska will provide Yup'ik-speaking voters in the Bethel area with
the tools they need to fully participate in the political process,"
said Natalie Landreth of NARF. "That is what this case was all about -
equal access to the polls."

"Our right to vote is one of the
most important that we as Americans possess," said Alaska Lieutenant
Governor Craig Campbell, who oversees the Division of Elections. "Here
in Alaska, we want all our citizens to exercise that right, regardless
of where they live or the language they speak. We are pleased to have
come together to ensure that this case is a win-win for Yup'ik-speaking
voters and the state of Alaska."

"Every American deserves an equal
voice in the political process," said Laughlin McDonald, Director of
the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "The Constitution protects all
Alaskans' right to vote regardless of what language they speak."

Key protocols for the Division of Elections include:

  • Training bilingual poll workers to provide language assistance to voters;
  • Coordinating language assistance through a bilingual staff person with a toll-free number;
  • Relying
    on Yup'ik language experts to translate election materials, including
    information on ballot measures, candidates, absentee and special-needs
    voting and voter registration;
  • Preparation
    of a Yup'ik-English glossary of election terms and phrases to guide
    bilingual poll workers providing language assistance;
  • Providing sample ballots in Yup'ik;
  • Generating
    pre-election publicity in Yup'ik through radio ads, television programs
    and public service announcements, including announcements over VHF
    radios in villages that do not receive regular radio broadcasts; and
  • Undertaking outreach to the villages in the census area.

"I have said all along that all
we wanted was to be able to understand what we are voting for. Now that
will happen, and I am very, very happy," said Billy McCann, a plaintiff
in the case. "Being a plaintiff is not easy, but when you come together
to fix a problem like this, it is worth it."

The settlement agreement in the case can be found online at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/nick-et-al-v-bethel-et-al-settlement-agreement-state-alaska

State of Alaska attorneys who worked
on the case are Gilman Dana S. Burke, Sarah J. Felix, Margaret A.
Paton-Walsh and Michael Barnhill.
 
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are
Natalie Landreth of NARF, Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights
Project, James J. Davis, Jr. of Northern Justice Project, Dr. James T.
Tucker, and attorneys from the ACLU of Alaska.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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