Voter Forms Available In Spanish

— Voter registration forms in Spanish are now available to Arkansans because of a Fayetteville resident’s insistence.

The Arkansas Secretary of State's office confirmed Wednesday that Maria Hicks of Fayetteville made a valid complaint after she asked for a voter registration form in Spanish at the Washington County Courthouse, but was told none had been provided by the secretary of state. The state office is responsible for providing the forms to counties.

Hicks called the secretary of state’s office and was told such forms aren’t available, said Alex Reed, spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin.

“That’s wrong information,” he said.

Hicks did not know the staff member at the secretary of state’s office who she talked to by telephone Feb. 24, she said.

“I was told that the forms weren’t available and never had been before,” Hicks said. “That wasn’t true because I still had copies of the forms from the last election.

“A voter registration form is an important document with personal information on it,” she said Tuesday. “Would you fill one out if the language it was written in wasn’t your first language?”

The office found after Hicks’ Feb. 24 complaint the links on the secretary’s website to updated forms in Spanish didn’t work, Reed said. This prevented county clerks from linking to a printable version of the form. The link has been fixed, and the form is also available from the secretary’s office upon request, Reed said. Anyone told earlier that forms were not available should check back, he said.

The deadline to register for the May 22 primaries and nonpartisan judicial elections is April 22.

Hicks is a candidate for the Washington County Quorum Court. She also serves as vice chairwoman for the Hispanic Caucus of the 3rd District for the state Democratic Party. She said she is glad the form is available now, but was surprised the staff of the state’s chief election official had to be reminded of the requirement.

“It’s part of the state constitution,” Hicks said.

Amendment 51 of the state constitution, Section 5, reaffirms the Secretary of State is Arkansas’ “chief election official” and states, in part: “Bilingual (Spanish/English) forms, Braille forms, and large print forms shall be available upon request.” The parentheses are in the amendment.

Hicks said the secretary of state’s office was very diplomatic once somebody noticed the problem, but she said it shouldn’t have taken her calling for them to make the forms available. Hicks has asked the state Democratic Party in other regions to check and make sure these forms are available.

There was a push to make it more difficult to register to vote in the last legislative session, Hicks said. A bill to require a valid Arkansas driver’s license for registration was introduced. That makes her acutely aware of anything that “serves the same purpose of making it more difficult to register, to do administratively what couldn’t be done legislatively,” Hicks said.

Virgil Guerra, spokesman for the Springdale chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the letter of the law is clear on the matter but that “speaking personally, I’m 50/50” on whether this was a significant problem.

“The information asked for on these forms is basic: your name, address and last four digits of your Social Security number,” Guerra said. “Anybody who still has trouble filling out this in English can go register with someone and get help.”

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