It is gratifying that Gwinnett and Hall counties in Georgia are rejecting demands by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) to provide Spanish ballots, voter guides, poll workers and website information for future elections.
GALEO, which is citing Section 203 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, is well known in the Peach State for trying to undermine English as the tie that binds us all as Americans. It is now threatening to sue in court to get its way. That’s why U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is rightly rapping GALEO:
“Requirements such as those proposed would unnecessarily burden counties that are already facing budget constraints. There is no reason to create a new burden on counties with an initiative that will have little impact for its citizens. Unreasonable demands by activist groups do not establish justification to change policies, especially when American citizens already have the right to bring translators with them to polling places.”
Several General Accounting Office reports, by the way, reveal such ballots are rarely used— probably because English proficiency is required for one to become a U.S. citizen.
There is no justification for this arbitrary and budget busting Voting Rights Act provision, especially since it has been interpreted in recent years to mean that every municipality within a “covered” minority jurisdiction must provide multilingual election materials— even if everyone there speaks English.
The genesis of all this occurred in 1975, when Congress broadened the Act to include special protections for “language minorities” such as American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan natives, and citizens of
Spanish heritage like residents in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico. (Congress made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens in 1917.) This “remedy” was to be temporary, although Congress renewed this provision in 2007.
Specifically, counties must provide multilingual election materials under Sections 203(c) and 4(f)(4) if one or more of the following conditions is met:
* More than 5 percent of the jurisdiction’s total voting age citizens are members of a protected “language-minority” group, or
* The illiteracy rate of such language-minority group citizens is higher than the national illiteracy rate, or
* More than 10,000 of the jurisdiction’s voting age citizens are members of a protected language-minority group.
One more point. In a wide variety of ways— including language assistance settlement decrees imposed on local governments by the U.S. Justice Department that require the hiring of bilingual election workers— Section 203 increases the risk of election fraud, voter intimidation and voter manipulation.
As Congressman Collins points out, U.S. citizens already have the right to bring someone to translate for them at the polling place if that is needed. GALEO has produced no evidence of anyone being denied their right to vote because of language.
The author is the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based ProEnglish. www.proenglish.org