Not long after it became clear that Hillary Clinton had won Nevada’s caucus on Saturday, America Ferrera, an actress who stumps for Clinton, claimed that Bernie Sanders supporters at Harrah’s Las Vegas, a casino, had earlier in the evening chanted “English only” at Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist and labor leader who also stumps for Clinton, to stop her from translating an explanation of the caucus process from English to Spanish.
“What happened is the person who was running the caucus said we need a translator and he said the first person that comes to the stage can be the translator, so I walked up to the front and then some of the organizers, the Bernie organizers, decided to shout ‘No, no, no,’” Huerta later told CNN. “Then a Bernie person stood up and said, I can also do translation. So then the person running the caucus said we won’t have a translator.” She added: “Then some of the organizers were shouting ‘English only, English only.’ This is bad.”
Video evidence corroborates some of this account, but not all of it. The debate over who should be permitted to translate the proceedings begins in the following footage at around 53:30:
A number of people, presumably Sanders supporters, can be heard to indistinctly objecting to Huerta’s offer to translate. Their concern is, perhaps, understandable: Just two days ago, Huerta—who, with Cesar Chavez, in the late ‘60s, cofounded the National Farm Workers Associated, which would eventually become one of the most influential farm-labor unions in the country—authored a post on Medium titled “On Immigration, Bernie Sanders is Not Who He Says He Is.”
In the above footage, after some incomprehensible muttering and agitation in the crowd, the precinct’s permanent chair declares (around 55:22), “We’re going forward in English only.” This is met with cheers and applause. The precinct chair goes on to ask anyone in the room who speaks both English and Spanish to inform their neighbors who only speak Spanish of what’s going on.
Based on census data, however, Clark County (which includes Las Vegas) must conduct all elections in English, Spanish, and Filipino/Tagalog, according to the Federal Voting Rights Act, which is enforced by the Department of Justice. And, as the Washington Post points out, the Help America Vote Act provides federal funds to provide translated voting materials, language assistance, or interpretation.
All of that being the case, the real culprit would seem to be the Democratic National Committee (or the Nevada state Democratic party) for failing to provide voters whose sole or preferred language is Spanish with the resources to fully and properly participate in the wonder that is representative democracy.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the DNC or the state party.