Digital-Age Discrimination: The Voting Rights Act, Language-Minorities, and Online Voter Registration

By Morgan E. Saunders

Online Voter Registration, a new and exciting advancement in election administration, conveniently allows individuals to register to vote on the Internet. However, Online Voter Registration also highlights deficiencies within the United States election system. Specifically, many states’ Online Voter Registration websites are only available in English, despite the fact that citizens in those states have a federally guaranteed right to access all of their election materials in a different language. This right comes from the minority-language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which require certain states and counties to provide all election materials in specific languages other than English that are common within their jurisdictions. Unfortunately, these provisions often go unenforced or under-enforced. States and counties have been especially slow to come into compliance with the minority-language provisions with regards to their online election materials, like their Online Voter Registration websites. Due to the underenforcement of this section of the Voting Rights Act, there is little legal precedent on which to base future litigation. This Note argues that all Online Voter Registration systems provided by states containing minority-language covered jurisdictions must be provided to voters in all covered languages. It also provides both a litigation and legislative strategy to ensure full compliance with the minority-language provisions on the Internet. Achieving full compliance with the VRA is critical to ensure that non-English-speaking voters have equal access to the ballot.

Download Article