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HERNANDEZ v. WOODARD

June 13, 1989

MILDRED MARGARET HERNANDEZ; MANUEL JUAREZ; CYNTHIA RODRIGUEZ; LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS, JOLIET COUNCIL, CHAPTER 502; and CECILIA ROSAS, Plaintiffs,
v.
CLARA HARTLEY WOODARD, in her capacity as County Clerk of Will County, Illinois, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFF

 BRIAN BARNETT DUFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This case involves a class action brought on behalf of the voting-age Hispanic citizens of Will County, Illinois *fn1" against the County Clerk of Will County, Clara Hartley Wood. The named plaintiffs include a number of registered voters, at least one unregistered but eligible voter, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, an organization actively engaged in registering voters in Will County. The plaintiffs want more than two Spanish-speaking deputy election registrars appointed by Will County, and contend that an Illinois statute, as well as the defendant's application of it, violate the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971 et seq., the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment by limiting the number of such registrars. The defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 To vote in Illinois, a person must register prior to election day either at a designated government office or with an appointed deputy registrar. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1987 Ch. 46, para. 4-1; Ill.Rev.Stat. 1987 Ch. 46, para. 4-6.1. The Illinois Election Code provides for registration by county, and prescribes who may and who must be appointed as deputy registrars.

 The Code requires county clerks to appoint as deputy registrars certain municipal officials and employees, as well as certain private persons, such as the presidents of academic institutions and officials of bona fide labor organizations. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1987 Ch. 46, para. 4-6.2(a). It also requires county clerks to appoint as registrars:

 
(5) A duly elected or appointed official of a bona fide State civic organization, as defined and determined by rule of the State Board of Elections, or a reasonable number of qualified members designated by such official, who may accept the registration of any qualified resident of the county. The State Board of Elections shall by rule provide for certification of bona fide State civic organizations.

 Ill.Rev.Stat. 1987 Ch. 46, para. 4-6.2(a)(5). Finally, the Code authorizes the County Clerk to appoint additional deputy registrars from "a list of applicants submitted by the Chairman of the County Central Committee of [each] political party." Ill.Rev.Stat. 1987 Ch. 46, para. 4-6.2(a).

 The Illinois Board of Elections has promulgated guidelines to clarify certain confusions arising from para. 4-6.2(a)(5). The guidelines state that the county clerk, rather than the bona fide civic organizations, should determine what constitutes a reasonable number of civic organization members to be designated as deputy registrars. Advisory Opinion No. 84-5, at 7 (June 18, 1984). They also set forth the following factors to guide the determination as to what represents a reasonable number from any particular organization: (1) the size and population of the jurisdiction; (2) the size and membership of the organization; (3) the targeted registration goals of the organization (in terms of number of persons sought to be registered, the size of the area involved and accessibility of registration facilities and sites); and (4) the availability of training and the organization's past history in effectively accepting voter registrations. Id. Finally, the guidelines state that "an organization's political affiliations or associations cannot be used as criteria in deciding how many of the organization's members will be appointed deputy registrars," and that "whatever standards are applied by the election authority must be applied uniformly and consistently to all organizations within the election jurisdiction." Id.

 In August, 1988, 13 members of the Hispanic Democratic Council ("HDC"), a bona fide State civic organization, applied to become deputy registrars in Will County for the purpose of conducting a voter registration drive for the November, 1988 election. After submitting their applications, they were informed that the defendant had established a fixed limit of two deputy registrars per organization. The defendant thereafter appointed two deputy registrars from HDC, and rejected the rest.

 The plaintiffs subsequently brought this action. Noting a vast disparity between the registration rates of Hispanics in Will County vis-a-vis non-Hispanics, and the importance of access to registrars in the electoral process, they attack para. 4-6.2(a) on the grounds that it violates their rights under the Voting Rights Act, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment in giving the county clerks excessive discretion in appointing registrars from civic organizations, and in limiting the categories of individuals who may be appointed deputy registrars. They also challenge under the same federal laws the defendant's practice of appointing only two deputy registrars per civic organization.

 DISCUSSION

 The Voting Rights Act

 In 1975, Congress extended the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971 et seq., to cover members of certain language minorities: American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives and Spanish heritage. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973l(c) (3), 173aa-1a(f). Determining that "voting discrimination against citizens of [such] minorities is pervasive and national scope," 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(f)(1), Congress brought these minorities within the protections of §§ 2, 4 and 5 of the Act, which had previously applied only to racial minorities. It also passed a ...


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