City remains under federal review
By Jennifer McLain
ROSEMEAD — As the November election nears, city officials continue to grapple with a federal lawsuit that calls for compliance with voting laws.
Rosemead was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2005 after an audit found that the city did not provide voter information in multiple languages, which is required by the Voting Rights Act.
While Rosemead has since complied with the lawsuit, officials continue to pay for outside consultants.
“We have satisfied their concerns,” said Councilwoman Margaret Clark. “But this helps ensure that we continue to follow their requirements.”
Tonight, City Council members will vote to approve a contract for Linda Hudson of Hudson Consulting Services, who will be hired to monitor two elections for no more than $36,000.
The total cost of the November and March elections is expected to be nearly $150,000, including consultant fees.
City officials said the workload and complexity of the consent decree is too much for the city staff to take on alone.
The 2005 lawsuit named the Rosemead City Council, former City Clerk Nancy Valderama and past City Manager Bill Crowe for failing to provide election information in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.
The Voting Rights Act requires governmental districts with a substantial number of people who speak languages other than English to provide all voting materials in those languages as well as in English.
Among the requirements of the federal consent decree was for Rosemead to provide election materials in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, and to also provides oral assistance to voters who speak Korean, Japanese and Tagalog.
After the lawsuit, the city was reviewed by the Department of Justice during two subsequent elections, said City Manager Oliver Chi.
“It was a wonderful report stating that we had indeed lived up to the consent decree’s requirements to make sure there is equal voting access to all of the residents in the city,” Chi said.
The city will be monitored until the March election.
Rosemead was not the only local city targeted.
Walnut entered into a consent decree with the federal government after a complaint was filed in early 2007.
The agreement stated that election materials and assistance at the polling places would include Chinese and Korean languages for voters with limited-English proficiency.
The new ballot includes English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog.
In 2005, Azusa failed to fully translate its official ballots, polling signs and other voter information into Spanish, and Paramount did not provide official ballots in Spanish.
Paramount City Manager Linda Benedetti-Leal said the city has one more election to go. At the last election, she said that the city met all of the requirements by the Department of Justice.
“In our case, we only had Spanish to deal with, and we handled that with our in-house staff,” Benedetti-Leal said. “It was a lot of work, but if it was three languages, that would be a lot to deal with.”
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2477