Bid to strip Voting Rights Act of bilingual proviso falls short

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe provision in question is Section 203, which mandates that bilingual voting materials be provided in communities where the non-English-speaking population is 5 percent or more, or exceeds 10,000 people. In California, 25 counties qualify including Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura. In Los Angeles County, ballot information is translated into six languages: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog. About 137,000 of Los Angeles County’s 3.8 million registered voters will receive their voting guides and ballots in a language other than English this year, costing the county about $4 million. Southern California Republicans backed King in the push for English-only voting information, saying they see no need for translations because any immigrant who has gained citizenship and is therefore eligible to vote also must have passed an English reading and comprehension exam. WASHINGTON – Los Angeles County can continue to print election ballots in Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages after conservative Republicans failed Wednesday to strip a bilingual requirement from the federal Voting Rights Act. Iowa Republican Rep. Steven King led the English-only charge, which lost in the House Judiciary Committee in a 9-26 vote. Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and 10 other Republicans helped beat back the amendment, underscoring a similar GOP rift in the ongoing illegal-immigration debate. But the battle over multilingual ballots could be just beginning. King said he plans to introduce a similar amendment allowing the language-assistance requirement to lapse when the expiring 1965 Voting Rights Act comes to the full House for reauthorization later this month. “It’s right for America in the long term,” King said. Multilingual ballots, he argued, impose a financial burden on state and local governments and stymie assimilation. “If you are going to vote in a U.S. election, you should be able to comprehend, read and speak the English language,” said Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks. But immigrants-rights groups say the service is an essential bridge to assimilating immigrant communities. “When it comes to voting, you are talking about complicated propositions; it’s about understanding. A lot of native Americans have hard times understanding the propositions and issues,” said Dae Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center. The center regularly holds voting drives in the Korean immigrant community and Yoon says about 90 percent of those who register need ballots translated. Carlos Rodriguez of Glendale, who came to the U.S. from Peru as a teenager and gained citizenship in 1987, said he understands the English-only argument, but doesn’t agree. “Just because English is the main language doesn’t mean we can speak it well,” said Rodriguez, who now owns a telecommunications company. “For some people it’s not that easy, especially the elderly,” he said. “I can imagine grandmas, grandpas; they would need it, even if they speak English.” Democrats described multilingual ballots as an issue of basic fairness for citizens. “The right to vote for every American citizen is the foundation of our democracy,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena. The Voting Rights Act, which was reauthorized 33-1, is expected to be considered by the full House before Memorial Day. Staff Writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report. [email protected] (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img