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Florida counties scrambling after abrupt order mandating bilingual ballots by 2020 primary

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Florida counties scrambling after abrupt order mandating bilingual ballots by 2020 primary

MIAMI — Rural counties across Florida are struggling to meet a state mandate to offer bilingual ballots to all its voters in time for March 2020 primary.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, issued the order, somewhat abruptly, in April, surprising officials in smaller counties who said that they did not have the money or resources to comply.

The directive requires that the state’s 67 counties make voting accessible to Spanish speakers by offering non-English ballots, sample ballots and voting material. The order came after a lawsuit was filed by several Latino and civil rights organizations, arguing that 32 counties were violating the Voting Rights Act because they had large Latino populations but didn’t offer Spanish-language ballots to its voters.

The judge ruled in favor of the groups, forcing the counties to comply. The governor’s directive covers the other 22 counties not covered by the court order.

Florida has over two million Hispanic registered voters, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Florida has over two million Hispanic registered voters, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
(Elina Shirazi/Fox News)

At least 13 counties, including Broward, which includes Fort Lauderdale, and Orange, which includes Orlando, already have bilingual ballots because they have large minority populations and must abide by federal law.

Miami-Dade County has trilingual ballots because it also has a large Haitian population that speaks Creole.

On the road to the White House, Hispanics will be critical voters in a crucial swing state. The state’s already large Latino population increased significantly after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, prompting millions of the island’s residents to flee to Florida.

State officials want to make sure those Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens, can and do vote.

“[It’s] a recognition of the growth of the Latino or Hispanic population in the state,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a political science professor at Florida International University.

DeSantis’ decision provoked an immediate backlash, especially across rural counties with few Hispanics.

Wesley Wilcox, the elections supervisor in Central Florida’s Marion County, where the Hispanic population is about 6 percent, said the mandate will hurt many areas.

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Miami-Dade County is one of thirteen counties already using bilingual ballots.

Miami-Dade County is one of thirteen counties already using bilingual ballots.
(Elina Shirazi/Fox News)

“It is a concern, especially for those jurisdictions that are much more fiscally constrained than some of the others. In the November 2018 election, the ballot in Marion County with all the amendments and everything fit on one sheet of paper. Well, that is no longer going to be the case. We are going to have two sheets of paper,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said complying with the order will cost the county $100,000, including mailing and printing costs.

“You know, all my ‘vote here’ signs that I’ve had,” he said, “we are redoing those.”

In Monroe County, which includes Key West, officials said they do not know how they will be able to comply with the order — but they are trying.

“We do what we are told, but it is going to be costly,” said Monroe Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin. “Everything has to be newly printed and there is no way getting around that. It can be done, but it will be difficult to find bilingual poll workers. We can’t use high school Spanish speakers, they have to really know how to speak it fluently, have an intelligent conversation. Also, we don’t have as many Hispanics as we used to.”

But others welcomed the move in a state where 2 million of the 13 million eligible voters are Hispanic.

Many newcomers who come from Spanish-speaking regions say they already find the voting process complex and confusing. Not being able to understand the ballot adds to the challenge.

“I am from Puerto Rico. I voted in the last election in the state of Florida. I speak Spanish better … I need a ballot in dual English and Spanish,” said Sheraly Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican voter.

Gamarra, the political science professor, said Gonzalez is not alone.

“Hispanics are now becoming voters, and they are becoming voters across the state,” Gamarra said.

In the November 2016 General Election, Census estimates that 1.55 million Hispanics in Florida reported voting in that election.

In the November 2016 General Election, Census estimates that 1.55 million Hispanics in Florida reported voting in that election.
(Elina Shirazi/Fox News)

Latino rights groups in Florida say these voters need a chance to exercise a fundamental American right.

“We do have 25 percent of the population who are Spanish speaking and when you have over 45 percent of the counties not having language access for the election, it is a problem,” said Yanidsi Velez, the Florida state director for the Hispanic Federation.

Political analysts say getting Hispanics to the polls in 2020 is critical for both the Democratic and Republican parties. President Trump narrowly won Florida in the 2016 presidential election.

“The vote of a few thousand might even turn around a major electoral result. And so, you know, from the perspective of either party I think it’s a great move and something that might be tried elsewhere, especially where you have this new influx of voters,” Gamarra said.

More and more counties across the nation are offering non-English ballots. Florida is one of three states, along with California and Texas, where a large number of counties provide Spanish-language ballots, according to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank.

Other states with large minority populations, like California and Texas, already provide Spanish translations in some capacity.

Other states with large minority populations, like California and Texas, already provide Spanish translations in some capacity.
(Elina Shirazi/Fox News)

DeSantis said Florida needs to guarantee that every voter understands how they’re voting and for whom they’re voting.

“It is critically important,” the governor said when announcing his order, “that Spanish-speaking Floridians are able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers.”

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Pelosi flexes muscle over party in impeachment debate, but ‘dam’ could collapse

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Pelosi flexes muscle over party in impeachment debate, but ‘dam’ could collapse

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has wielded her power to quash a faction of Democrats rallying for President Trump’s impeachment, but frustrated members within the party say the president is one misstep away from “that dam collapsing,” according to a Sunday report.

Since reassuming leadership over the house, Pelosi has thwarted her party’s liberal wing from going forward with impeachment proceedings, encouraging them to instead focus on other issues like health care.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reflects on President Donald Trump's statement that he would accept assistance from a foreign power. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reflects on President Donald Trump’s statement that he would accept assistance from a foreign power. 
(AP)

“I don’t think there’s anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a president of the United States, and so you have to handle it with great care,” Pelosi told CNN on Sunday. “It has to be about the truth and the facts to take you to whatever decision has to be there.”

Some lawmakers say their deference to Pelosi is out of respect for the speaker’s political expertise, and agree that impeachment would do more harm than good.

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“She is the single smartest strategist that we’ve ever had…People are not wanting to second guess her because she’s been right on so many fronts,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., told the Washington Post.

But other Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., admit they toe the party line out of fear.

“One, you want to be a team player and support the leader’s position, but secondly you’re worried about your own self and…what can happen if you don’t follow along,” Schrader told the paper.

Some argue that President Trump’s defiance of congressional investigators will eventually break the divide between moderate Democrats and its liberal wing.

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Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., described Pelosi’s hold over Democrats as “fragile” because “we’re kind of one event, one piece of explosive testimony, one action by Trump away from that dam collapsing.”

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The Democrats’ pro-impeachment camp howled this week after Trump said in an interview with ABC that he’d be willing to listen if a foreign government had dirt on an opponent. Yet despite the familiar refrain of impeachment, Pelosi didn’t budge an inch on impeachment after Trump’s comments.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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Trump asks Mulvaney to leave Oval Office for coughing during ABC interview

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Trump asks Mulvaney to leave Oval Office for coughing during ABC interview

President Trump was apparently so perturbed by his chief of staff coughing during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office last week, that he asked his staffer to leave the room, according to a transcript from the station.

Trump had been asked a question about his tax returns when someone off camera – identified as Mulvaney – reportedly begins coughing.

“I hope they get it, because it’s a fantastic financial statement,” Trump said Stephanopoulos amid apparent coughing before saying: “And let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer.”

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“I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that,” Trump reportedly said of Mulvaney’s coughing. “If you’re going to couch, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy oh boy.”

“Your chief of staff,” Stephanopoulos reportedly clarified.

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The interview, which was broadcast Sunday, proceeded with Trump saying although he wanted people to see his “phenomenal” financial statement, it’s “not up to me, it’s up to my lawyers.”

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Buttigieg says he won’t be first gay president, ‘almost certain’ we’ve had others

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Buttigieg says he won't be first gay president, 'almost certain' we've had others

Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t believe he’ll be the first gay president if elected in 2020.

“I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones,” he told “Axios on HBO.”

“I mean, statistically, it’s almost certain.”

FILE: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a grassroots event on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Alexandria, Va.

FILE: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a grassroots event on Friday, June 14, 2019, in Alexandria, Va.
(AP)

Asked if he possibly knew which commander-in-chief was playing for the other team, the Democratic hopeful said: “My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present, let alone retroactively. But one can only assume that’s the case.”

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Buttigieg — who is mayor of South Bend, Ind. — has been rising in the polls as of late. He would be the first openly gay presidential candidate, if nominated next next year.

The 37-year-old has been asked in the past about the possibility of there ever being a gay president, with BuzzFeed posing the question back in March.

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“My gaydar is not great to begin with and definitely doesn’t work over long stretches of time,” he repeated. “I think we’ll just have to let the historians figure that out.”

To read more from The New York Post, click here

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