By Rick Oltman, May 3, 2019
With the official start of the 2020 election cycle only a few months off, providing bilingual ballots has been the focus of a few court orders.
In Alachua County, Florida, the Supervisor of Elections just announced last month that it will offer Spanish-language ballots for the 2020 elections. And they are looking for bilingual poll workers for the coming election. In 2018, many “advocacy groups” were claiming the voting rights of up to 30,000 Puerto Ricans would be violated if the counties didn’t provide Spanish-language voting materials and “assistance” during this election season.
Understandably, there were/are in Florida many Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria (the Category 5 hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017). It was one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit Puerto Rico. And Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, with the right to vote in our elections, of course. However, the question occurs if they have established their residency in Florida, or are they still Puerto Rico residents who should be voting absentee from their home district? Complicated, to be sure, but this is a question that should influence the bilingual ballot discussion.
On April 8th, a New Jersey court ordered Morris County to print bilingual ballots for Dover, a town of about 18,000 people 28 miles northwest of Newark. Their primary election is June 4th. U.S. Census figures report that Dover, New Jersey, has a 69.4% Hispanic population – … one of thirteen New Jersey municipalities with a Hispanic majority.
In September of 2018, Sonoma County (north of San Francisco) advertised for bilingual poll workers for the November election. The languages they were seeking help with were: Spanish, Khmer, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The county also allows a voter to bring two people to the polls to assist them in voting.
English is the language of the United States. One of the requirements of becoming a naturalized citizen is being able to speak English. If a voter, who is required by law to be a citizen of the United States, requires a ballot in Spanish, or Tagalog or Khmer, then it seems quite possible that the person received their citizenship as a result of the law not being enforced that day.
I was engaged in a friendly debate with the editorial page editor of the local newspaper years ago and complained about election ballots being printed in Spanish when all voters should be English speakers. His response was a dismissive, “They feel more comfortable in Spanish.”
I responded, “You don’t think they should be fluent in English, the language of our country and our economy, one of the main reasons they came here?”
His response was the “thousand-yard stare” and silence.
Speaking the same language can help unite people of a country, help them to understand each other, overcome basic human prejudices and build bonds with one another, all of which is the glue that holds our culture together. One way to ensure participation in our cultural events, like elections, and immersion into our society, is for everyone to speak the same language … in this case, English.
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. [Winston Churchill.]
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