FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2019
Commr. K Morrison - Ted Mason (312) 590-3443
Commr. Britton - Julie Kaviar (312) 603-4933
COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS SCOTT BRITTON AND KEVIN B. MORRISON ANNOUNCE PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION EXPANDING VOTING ACCESS
Legislation passed today expands translations of ballots and voting materials, puts Cook County among top jurisdictions in the nation for ballot language access
CHICAGO—October 24, 2019—Cook County Commissioners Scott Britton, 14th District, and Kevin B. Morrison, 15th District, were lead sponsors on the Voting Opportunity and Translation Equity (VOTE) Ordinance that unanimously passed at the Cook County Board of Commissioners October Board Meeting today. The VOTE Ordinance mandates that fully translated ballots and voting materials in as many as eight additional languages will be available for suburban Cook County residents with limited-English-proficiency in 2020. In total, the ballot will be available in as many as 12 languages, putting Cook County among the top jurisdictions in the nation for ballot language access.
“The core of our democracy demands that all residents have equal opportunity and access to exercise their right to vote, regardless of the language they speak, their physical ability, or their level of literacy,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This is another example of how we successfully create meaningful policies that put equity at the forefront of County government. I thank Commissioners Scott Britton and Kevin Morrison, Clerk Karen Yarborough, and community advocates for their attention and leadership in passing this important legislation.”
Illinois is in the top six states for the most naturalized citizens. In Cook County, 35% of residents speak a language other than English at home.
“More than one third of Cook County residents speak a language other than English at home, and we can and should do better to empower all citizens to participate in our democracy,” said Commissioner Morrison. “All citizens have the right to vote and deserve equal access to the ballot. The VOTE Ordinance will make our county a leader on this issue and set an example of how to create meaningful equity at the ballot.”
“This is about justice and equity,” said Commissioner Britton. “The VOTE Ordinance creates a sustainable and equitable framework to expand language access at the polls in a way that is effective, operational and fiscally responsible. I thank President Preckwinkle, Clerk Yarborough, my fellow Commissioners and community advocates for their support in passing this legislation that celebrates the diversity of our citizenry and highlights the importance of the involvement of citizens in our democracy.”
In compliance the federal Voting Rights Act, Cook County currently provides translated ballots and materials in Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi. The VOTE Ordinance expands on those requirements and guarantees that starting with the March 2020 election, electronic, audio and mail-in ballots will be translated into Korean and Tagalog languages, Starting in the November 2020 election, at least six additional languages (Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Gujarati, and Urdu) that have been identified as having 10,000 or more limited-English-proficient Cook County residents will be guaranteed translated electronic, audio and mail-in ballots and voting materials. Beginning in the February 2021 election, voters will have access to fully translated print ballots in all languages that have been identified as having 13,000 or more limited-English-proficient Cook County residents. These language translations are in addition to the languages that Cook County already has in place.
“I am honored to work with the commissioners, the President, and advocacy groups to find a solution to the barrier that language has been to thousands of eligible voters for many years,” said Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough. “As an advocate for voter access, I am committed to those to whom language has been a barrier to a connection with their right to cast a ballot.”
In addition to expanding translated ballots and voting materials, the VOTE Ordinance also codifies non-ballot language access including strengthening protections to bring a translator to the ballot and making it easier for limited-English speakers to access language support services available. This includes all voting materials such as the County Clerk’s website, signs, and instructions at polling places, election judge and poll worker identification, and new voter guides. The VOTE Ordinance also mandates a triennial review and reporting process starting in 2021 to better account for changing demographics.
“I am so excited. This is a historic day for our community. The language barrier has been the biggest hurdle to stop Korean Americans with limited English skills from casting their votes,” said Sik Son, president of Korean-American VOICE. “The Korean ballot will break the barrier and give the community a voice that has been silenced for a long time. We appreciate the Cook County Commissioners’ support, especially Commissioner Britton and Commissioner Morrison, in the passage of VOTE ordinance.”
“Passage of the VOTE Ordinance today marks historic progress for Cook County in becoming a more inclusive democracy,” said Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago. “Around a third of all Asian Americans in Chicagoland are limited-English proficient and experience challenges with the voting process. The VOTE Ordinance helps expand ballot access for many of these Asian American and immigrant voters and serves as a major step towards creating a more equitable democracy. Advancing Justice-Chicago thanks Commissioners Britton and Morrison as well as the entire Cook County Board for their leadership on this critical issue and looks forward to working with Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough and her office to ensure successful implementation of the VOTE ordinance.”
About Cook County Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison: Cook County Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison represents the 15th District which includes the Townships of Barrington, Elk Grove, Hanover and Schaumburg, as well as parts of Palatine and Wheeling Townships. A native of Elk Grove Village with a background in public service, Commissioner Morrison serves as Vice Chair of the Human Relations and Tax Delinquency committees and his core issues include improving access to mental health services and providing development opportunities and support for small businesses. For information, please contact the Commissioner’s office by calling (312) 603-6388 or visiting http://commissionerkevinbmorrison.org/
About Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton:
As Commissioner of the 14th District, Scott Britton represents the Northfield, Wheeling and Palatine Townships. Commissioner Britton serves on 15 committees, including as Vice Chair of Worker's Compensation and Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations. In addition, as Commissioner of the Cook County Forest Preserve, he serves on 11 committees, including as Vice Chair of the Botanic Garden and Worker’s Compensation. Commissioner Scott Britton grew up in a small farming community in Central Illinois and has maintained a philosophy heavily grounded in the values and principles of his rural hometown. After graduating from law school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he made his home in the northern suburbs. There he raised his two children, Ellie and Jake, who are proud products of Glenview public schools. Commissioner Britton has previously served as chairman of the Glenview Emergency 911 Board and on the Glenview District 34 Board of Education. He was elected to the Glenview Village Board in 2007 and continued to serve before being elected a Cook County Commissioner in 2018. Commissioner Britton maintains a strong focus on affordable housing, public health, equal opportunity, and worker rights, while being vigilant about his fiduciary responsibility. Connect with us at: www.CommissionerScottBritton.com, Facebook.com/CommissionerBritton or Twitter.com/CmsrBritton.