Radical Leanings I of II - How Steve Dettelbach Forced Bilingual Ballots on Millions of Ohioans

By John Corrigan


Steve Dettelbach and Kathleen Clyde are the Democratic nominees for Ohio Attorney General and Secretary of State respectively. Their candidacies allow for a fresh opportunity to examine just how Ohio’s second largest county, Cuyahoga, was forced to go to a Spanish language ballot for elections. The Obama Administration, of which Dettelbach was an official representative, used raw power to bring about a result that benefits very few Cuyahoga County voters. Obama and Dettelbach forced Spanish ballots upon the residents of the county as part of a broader liberal agenda.  They did so without a single vote of the General Assembly or majority vote of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. 


In 2009, the new Obama Administration appointed Solon attorney Steve Dettelbach, a Justice Department veteran, as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. With the mid-term elections coming in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made his own interpretations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in Section 203 in 1975, a priority and pushed for Spanish language ballots in 25 competitive U.S. States, including Ohio.  


Section 203 states that Americans who are educated in American flag schools in Guam and Puerto Rico, if they represent 10,000 voters or 5% of a “jurisdiction.” then that jurisdiction qualifies for a bilingual ballot to assist the voters who were not educated formally in the English language to vote.  A jurisdiction could be construed as a county, but also as a township or community under Federal law. This would be important later in the process of thrusting bilingual ballots upon Cuyahoga County.


Enter, Steve Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Dettelbach in August of 2010 (weeks before ballots for the November election were to be approved to be printed by the Board of Elections), threatened to file a discrimination lawsuit against Cuyahoga County if it did not print a bilingual ballot in time for the mid-term elections. The Obama Administration was concerned about the election fearing backlash by the newly formed Tea Party Movement against massive government spending with the Stimulus bill, U.S. Rep Betty Sutton (D-16)’s Cash for Clunker legislation, and the Obamacare taxes and mandates, among others. Always happy to play the identity politics card, Eric Holder’s Justice Department was enlisted by The White House to seek to increase Democratic constituency group voting participation.


The way most Ohio counties, including Cuyahoga’s Board of Elections, had always interpreted the 1975 Amendment to the Voting Rights Act was to consider the 5% or 10,000 voter rule by wards and precincts of municipalities.  Should a need arise that 5% of a specific city be found to have been educated in Puerto Rican or Guamanian schools, then that precinct or ward could qualify for bilingual ballots under the law. From 1975-2009, no jurisdiction in any city in Ohio qualified for a population of American citizens from these two locations who lived in a jurisdiction and were registered voters.


Elections have always been conducted in the English language in Ohio, since before Ohio became a state in 1803. The provision to have at least 10,000 voters born in Puerto Rico or Guam and not be proficient in the English language never occurred to elections officials. While educated in Spanish language schools, these voters upon moving to the United States, usually possessed English proficiency that allowed them to vote.


And in fact, no jurisdiction in Ohio, including Lorain and Cuyahoga Counties, possessed over 10,000 people educated in these overseas schools, and did not meet 5% of the population.  


Moreover, if a jurisdiction had met that threshold, bilingual ballots for those in that jurisdiction could be printed at little additional cost to the taxpayer. In other words, if it was found that Ward 17 of the City of Cleveland, precincts A, F, and L possessed a voter population that qualified under Section 203, then ballots in those precincts could have been printed in both languages to accommodate the voters who needed a bilingual ballot.


Until Dettelbach employed a very creative measure to determine if a jurisdiction actually had 10,000 voters who were educated in Puerto Rican or Guamanian schools.  The Justice Department mandated that anyone with a Spanish sounding surname would qualify under their new standard. So, a name like Rodriguez, automatically qualified as presumed to have been educated in a Spanish language school in an American protectorate.


This meant that if you were Irish and married a man from Spain whose family had never stepped foot in Guam or Puerto Rico, both you and your spouse or former spouse would be counted as having been educated overseas, and your children – born in Cleveland or wherever- were also considered to have been educated in Puerto Rico or Guam.


This stretch would appear to be beyond the bounds of logic, but was the standard that Cuyahoga County had to use to count up potential voters who qualified under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act as allowing for bilingual ballots to be printed on their behalf.


Dettelbach’s method of counting people to be included in the count of people educated overseas included people born in Ohio who had been educated in Ohio’s public schools, who conduct educational activities in English.  Under the Dettelbach rule, everyone that “sounded” Hispanic was included in the count and assumed to have been educated overseas in Guam or Puerto Rico. A list of names to look for that sounded Hispanic was provided.


Keep in mind that voters were never contacted or interviewed as to where they were educated, if your name was considered by the Justice Department to sound Hispanic, you were assumed to be educated in Guam or Puerto Rico. Even if you were a third or fourth generation American who had never left the country, you were assumed to be educated abroad.


3rd Rail reached out to both Attorney General candidate Steve Dettelbach and Secretary of State candidate Frank LaRose for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.  


Part II will examine how a deal cut with Dettelbach by the Board of Elections forces all of Cuyahoga County to vote a bilingual ballot.