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AUGUST 2, 2021


Latino civil rights organization questions Iowa’s “English-Only Law” and asks Iowa Secretary of State to allow all counties to use Spanish-translated materials.

DES MOINES, IOWA — The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC of Iowa) says that the access to vote should be clear and simple for all registered voters in the state. The group recently filed a petition for declaratory order with the Iowa Secretary of State asking for clarification about whether state election officials can use and accept Spanish language voting materials and forms, specifically the National Mail Voter Registration Form, the State of Iowa Official Voter Registration Form and the State of Iowa Official Absentee Ballot Request Form.

"Our democracy works best when every Iowa voter can participate in the process. Forcing Spanish-speaking voters to vote in a language they do not understand denies their right to vote and weakens the integrity of our elections,” said LULAC Iowa State Director Nick Salazar. “This petition is a step towards making sure that all Iowan voters are heard at the ballot box."


“The Iowa Constitution and the state of Iowa has a long history of ensuring the right to vote, including the right to provide election material to voters in languages other than English.  Due to a continuing misinterpretation of a 2007 court decision regarding a law enacted in 2002 by the state legislature, that right has been denied,” explains Joe Henry, LULAC Iowa’s Political Director. “Since then, thousands of non-English speaking U.S. Citizens have been unable to access voter information from local and state officials in languages, such as Spanish, that would ensure the right to vote as guaranteed by the laws of the United States and constitution of the state of Iowa.”

The petition asks for clarification around Iowa’s “English-Only Law,” which states that all political documents from the state “shall be in the English language.” Beyond a vague court ruling in 2008, the Iowa Secretary of State has not provided county officials or the public any clear guidance about whether officially translated, non-English voting materials are permissible. Because of this uncertainty, Iowa election officials exclusively provide English language voting materials across the state (except for in two counties covered by the Voting Rights Act that must provide translated materials, one of which must provide Spanish language materials). LULAC of Iowa asserts that the lack of officially translated Spanish language forms and guidance is overly burdensome for the state’s largest language minority population. The petition asks the Iowa Secretary of State to allow all counties to use officially translated Spanish language voting materials.

The Secretary now has 60 days to respond, after which legal action can be brought.


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