Hispanic voters in New York's Rockland and Ulster counties will have access to assistance and electoral materials in Spanish for the Nov. 6 elections, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday.
With the new agreement, which comes after a similar one was reached with Schenectady County, the AG's office intends to ensure that Spanish-speaking voters have the same access to the political process as English-speakers and do not encounter linguistic barriers on election day.
"The right to vote is one of our nation's most important civil rights," Schneiderman said in a statement.
"The minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act provide necessary safeguards and impose important requirements that are designed to ensure that all voters and prospective voters have access to the ballot box, regardless of their level of English proficiency," he said.
In August, the state AG's office reminded 10 counties that they had to comply with Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, which demands that certain voters with limited English speaking ability be provided with bilingual ballots.
Census data show that approximately 5.5 million New York state residents do not speak English as their first language, of whom 2.7 million are Spanish-speakers.
These figures, according to the AG's office, "illustrate rising language needs across our state."
Hispanics account for 16.1 percent of the residents of Rockland County and 9 percent of Ulster County.
"Implementing a comprehensive language access program is key to ensuring that members of our community are able to fully and meaningfully participate in the political process," Richard Rivera, with the group Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, said in response to the announcement.