NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BI-LINGUAL BALLOTS: NO COMPRENDE

July 13, 2006

Should English be the sole language of voting?  Most Americans (68 percent in a recent Rasmussen poll) say yes.  And 79 House Republicans have signed Iowa Rep. Steve King's letter urging that non-English ballots no longer be mandated by federal law.

Under provisions added to the Voting Rights Act in 1975, local election officials must provide special ballots and other language help in areas where census data show a sizable number of non-English-speaking citizens.  The Bush administration has vigorously enforced this rule.  At last count, 496 jurisdictions are covered by it.

Plenty is wrong with the 1975 legislation, starting with the fact that it is not really about civil rights, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD):

  • The printing of ballots in English is not an act of discrimination against any racial or ethnic minority.
  • Any citizen still can vote -- to cast an informed vote it still helps to know English, but that's true even with the crutch of bilingual ballots.
  • Besides, those truly stumped by English are allowed by law to take an interpreter into the voting booth.

So if non-English voting isn't a matter of civil rights, what's the point of it? 

  • Officially, it serves to draw once-excluded people into the nation's common political life.
  • In reality, it works against national unity because it designates new "language minorities" and encourages them to remain separate from the English-speaking majority.

This might not keep most small language groups from learning English and assimilating.  But the Spanish-speaking group, by far the largest, seems in no hurry to adopt the common language.  If anything, it seems to be taking the opposite route by working to create officially bilingual cities, counties and states, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "Booth of Babel," Investor's Business Daily, July 13, 2006.

 

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