Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) says he wants to end the federal bilingual ballot requirement.
Actually, he should oppose multilingual ballots, because here in uber-diverse California, some counties are forced by Washington to produce election materials in several languages. Federal law required Los Angeles County to provide ballots and materials in six languages as of 2005.
Furthermore, language diversity does not come cheap: For the November 2004 general election in LA County, the cost of providing written translations and bilingual poll workers amounted to $2.1 million out of the total cost of $16.3 million.
That’s all very twisted, since voting requires American citizenship, and American citizenship requires the ability to speak and understand English.
Aside from cost and legal prerequisites, polling shows a large majority of the American people continue to believe that immigrants should adopt America’s culture, language and heritage.
Those basic facts make Rep. Coffman’s legislative proposal sound like common sense.
Colorado congressman wants ballots printed only in English, Denver Post, August 18, 2011
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman announced plans Wednesday to introduce legislation that would repeal a section of the 1973 Voting Rights Act that requires jurisdictions with large populations of nonproficient English speakers to print ballots in more than one language.
Coffman, R-Colo., asserts that Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act is an unnecessary and unfunded federal mandate that can be a financial hardship for some jurisdictions because of the increased cost of translating and printing election materials and mailing larger ballots.
“Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman said.
Applicants for naturalization must demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak and understand a limited amount of basic English.
Immigrant-rights advocates see Coffman’s proposal as an attempt to disenfranchise eligible voters and an attack on one of the most important rights of citizens.
“We are talking about U.S. citizens, whether they were born here or not,” said Elena Nunez, program director with Colorado Common Cause.
“For us, this is a serious concern to our community because any effort to create barriers marginalizes our community,” said Olivia Mendoza, director with the Colorado Latino Forum.
Coffman, a former Colorado secretary of state, was prompted to craft the legislation by the situation facing county clerks across Colorado. Eight counties already must provide ballots in Spanish as well as English. Two counties must provide interpreters for Ute tribal members in southwest Colorado.
Sixteen more Colorado counties are expected to receive federal orders this month that they will need to provide Spanish ballots. Costs for those could run as high as $350,000 if they were required in a large county such as Arapahoe.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler was neutral on Coffman’s proposal.
“We are focused on complying with the law,” said Andrew Cole, a spokesman for Gessler. “Congressman Coffman obviously is a lawmaker, and if he wants to change the law, we will comply with the new law.”