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Apr 2, 2019 3:08 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

School Districts Will Provide English and Spanish Ballots For May 21 Budget And Board Vote

Hampton Bays Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen holding a voter registration poster in Spanish that is displayed throughout the school district. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Apr 2, 2019 3:38 PM

For the upcoming budget and school board balloting in May, all 15 school districts on the South Fork will offer ballots in both Spanish and English to comply with newly enforced federal guidelines, administrators said this week.

None of the school districts within Southampton and East Hampton towns has offered Spanish language ballots in previous years, despite some having large numbers of Hispanic residents. Bridgehampton offered bilingual ballots for its special vote in September for the school’s expansion project, District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh said, so they became the first local district to provide them.

For decades, federal law has required Nassau and Suffolk counties to provide English and Spanish election materials for all of the elections that take place within them, including primary, general, municipal, special district and school district elections, because the counties’ Spanish-speaking populations surpassed the threshold triggering the requirement. But, due to an oversight, it was not widely recognized that school district elections fell within that category.

After receiving complaints, the New York Civil Liberties Union reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice last year to address the oversight and urged the agency to compel school districts throughout the state to comply with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, according to Irma Solis, the Suffolk County chapter director for the NYCLU.

“Out here, in Suffolk County, we began to hear from parents informing us that they were trying to vote and either they were given a hard time or they had a difficult time understanding what they were reading. And so we kind of touched base with our voter rights project director, and he was also hearing it from some of my other chapter director colleagues,” Ms. Solis said. “And so it was something that we said, ‘Okay, so this is a bigger problem.’”

On Long Island, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York notified school districts and their lawyers at the beginning of this school year that they must adhere to the mandate, school administrators said.

Although this is the first time that school districts are providing ballots in Spanish, a few districts offered some Spanish language resources for previous votes, like Springs and East Hampton, which previously sent out their budget newsletters in Spanish, administrators said.

In Hampton Bays, bilingual staff were present at the polls in the past, and contact information was available for anyone wanting to learn more about the vote beforehand, District Clerk Anna Marie Rojas said. Spanish-translated informational posters also were displayed throughout the school district leading up to past votes.

In addition to the actual ballot, all materials related to the vote must also be translated, including notices, voter guides, budget brochures, school board candidate packages and registration forms.

There are increased costs associated with the additional resources, which schools did not budget for, because notification of the mandate came after budgets were adopted last year. However, the increases are not high enough to worry school administrators.

Hampton Bays Superintendent Lars Clemensen was not concerned about the adjustment, and Jean Mingot, Southampton’s assistant superintendent for business, said it was “not a huge burden.”

“There will be some increase in printing costs, for sure. It’s not going to impact our budget greatly, but it is something that we’re putting in place that we didn’t budget for,” East Quogue Superintendent Robert Long said. “We understand and we have been working hard at this for a few months, so we’re ready.”

Mr. Long said that his district spends about $3,000 in total election costs and that adding Spanish material will double the printing costs.

Some districts will receive their Spanish-translated materials from the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, while others are turning to bilingual in-house staff for assistance.

BOCES will charge 15 cents per word, in addition to a 10 percent administration fee for all Spanish-translated voting and ballot material, according to Patricia McCabe, its program administrator for communications and research. East Quogue, Tuckahoe and Sag Harbor signed on to receive the service, which is being offered for the first time this year as a response to the Department of Justice’s direction, Ms. McCabe said in an email.

The existence of such oversight of the U.S. Voting Rights Act highlights the fact that school district officials, and officials from the New York State Education Department, are not professional election administrators like those in a government Board of Elections. Every school district is its own election authority, and district administrators are responsible for providing sufficient voting materials and public outreach in preparation for the vote. The only role of the Board of Elections has is providing ballots and voting booths on the day of the election.

“It might be helpful to get the school elections to also happen on the same schedule as other elections and be run by professional election officials at the Board of Elections,” Ms. Solis of NYCLU said. “Having an entirely parallel school election system not only allows for confusion among voters, but it also wastes taxpayer money and also depresses, unfortunately, the turnout of eligible voters.”

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Does a voter in school board elections need to be a citizen?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 3, 19 7:44 AM
By biggles (4), hampton bays on Apr 3, 19 7:55 AM
According to info provided by NY State, No. The voter must be registered to vote with the school and be a district resident.
By ValGal03 (58), Montauk on Apr 4, 19 12:43 PM
Will Italian-American people who support Christopher Columbus be able to vote ?
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Apr 3, 19 7:58 AM
2 members liked this comment
If they are a registered voter
By biggles (4), hampton bays on Apr 3, 19 8:06 AM
What about having the ballot in Italian, Greek etc.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Apr 3, 19 10:26 AM
Is there a need in the community for it?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 3, 19 10:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
No, only the Spanish speaking minority deserves to be catered to. Others, who speak less important languages don't, right? If they can't read English or Spanish, they don't deserve representation, isn't that right, ForeignHypocrite?
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Apr 3, 19 10:43 AM
Hey Moron, please read the article before commenting.

This is a decades-old requirement imposed by federal law "because the counties’ Spanish-speaking populations surpassed the threshold triggering the requirement."

If the Italian or Greek-speaking populations surpass that threshold, then they should receive the same benefit.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 3, 19 10:51 AM
3 members liked this comment
Moron: Actually, they’re the MAJORITY in East Hampton HS and in NY State, in general. “Minority enrollment is 52% of the student body (majority Hispanic), which is lower than the New York state average of 56%.”
By ValGal03 (58), Montauk on Apr 4, 19 12:47 PM
So the President was right about the invasion!
By pigroast (100), East Quogue on Apr 4, 19 3:42 PM
You have to take your test for citizenship in English so we are catering to illegals? This experiment with the 32 year old superintendent has become s failure.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 3, 19 3:19 PM
It's a federal law and the districts were compelled to comply by a federal court. The superintendent has nothing to do with it.

Please read the article before commenting.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 3, 19 3:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
Your comment doesn't make sense. You have to be a citizen to register to vote. You have to be on the Voter Registration list to vote in school elections, hence it has nothing to do with undocumented.
The superintendents didn't make the law. And who's 32??
By biggles (4), hampton bays on Apr 3, 19 4:34 PM
This farce is worthy of a our challenge.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 3, 19 5:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
So gather some like-minded folks and elect some politicians who agree with you.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 3, 19 6:06 PM
Like by accident.

Could you please elaborate on the word "farce"?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 3, 19 6:33 PM
It's farcical to print ballots in any language other than English, one must be a citizen to vote, the test is given in English, ergo the citizen is fluent enough in English to pass the test so is fluent enough to read names on a damn ballot.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 3, 19 6:39 PM
That's one view, now find some people who share it and repeal the federal law on the books requiring languages on official ballots to reflect the local population.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 3, 19 6:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 4, 19 12:08 PM
Why do we not vote on money allocated to the Parrish at the school, as that comes out of your school taxes? Having it at the Parrish is illegal as it is school budget monies...
How did that get away???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 3, 19 8:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Because when it was combined with the school budget vote it was being voted down/rejected. By having the vote at the Parrish, it weeds out the folks who cannot make it there to vote again because they work, or can't make the effort, and is usually not well publicized except only to their active members, a day or two before the vote, or buried in the public notices, if that. Parrish took the proposition off school vote in 2014. It has worked well for them. Been approved ever since. They continue ...more
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Apr 8, 19 9:56 AM
People need to focus on the money, not this flim flam. Each year school budgets go up along with your taxes. Focus on the cost of education and the social services schools provide. Schools are the largest employers on the east end have runaway budgets They are crushing the middle class with high taxes. Look at the cost per student !

Have you ever seen a single school leader-administrator or superintendent have an idea to reduce budgets, combine districts or reduce overhead and the spend?. ...more
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Apr 3, 19 9:13 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Apr 4, 19 6:03 AM
Will there be paper ballots with No. 2 pencil? Or will the district try to computerize and upload the ballots like they did the NYS Assessment testing which failed so miserably?
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Apr 4, 19 9:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
More paid time off for school employees, less classroom instruction, less pay for parents who have to take time off and pay taxes for schools to open for EIGHT half days, as an equivalent to FOUR full days. The budget is excessively over the top. There was money leftover. Change/Cambiar is in order. Pun intended. VOTE May 21. Maybe they'll put Cinco de Mayo on the calendar.
SES – Spring Parent Teacher Conference Day – Thursday, April ...more
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Apr 5, 19 9:09 AM