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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bilingual Ballots Are a Bad Idea

By Linda Chavez: At a time when many state and local governments cannot afford even necessary government programs, the Obama administration is about to force hundreds of jurisdictions to waste millions of dollars printing ballots in Spanish and other languages for voters who don't need them. Worse, some of these bilingual ballots may be used fraudulently to encourage people who are not citizens to vote illegally in next year's election.

A perverse element of the Voting Rights Act makes the whole scheme possible, and, unfortunately, not even Republicans have been willing to challenge it.

Under the act, jurisdictions whose population includes at least 5 percent of voting-age citizens who have limited English proficiency must provide ballots and other voting materials in other languages. Currently, about 500 jurisdictions are required to do so.

I have repeatedly testified before Congress against this provision. As I have argued, there are exceedingly few persons who are actually eligible to vote who can't understand English. English proficiency among U.S.-born Hispanics is virtually universal. And even among naturalized citizens, English proficiency is rarely a problem, since demonstrating English proficiency is required to become a U.S. citizen.

So how is it that so many jurisdictions end up having to provide materials in Spanish, Chinese and other languages, when so few eligible voters really need them?


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