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Another Dumb Government Mandate

By Greg L | 20 October 2011 | Fairfax County, Virginia Politics | 6 Comments

I don’t want to make it difficult for immigrants, who for a variety of perfectly legitimate reasons, find it difficult to participate in elections if their grasp of English isn’t what it should be.  I still have to wonder though why Spanish language ballots are required for a county under federal law if the Census Bureau determines that a sufficient number of non-English speakers are simply residents of the county, even if they’re not registered to vote.  Requirements like this are putting a significant of a burden on electoral boards already struggling to deal with redistricting and the short election cycle it creates and will inevitably result in chaos we could avoid.

From the Fairfax Times:

The announcement has thrown a wrench into the county’s preparations in an already challenging voting year, said Electoral Board Secretary Carol Ann Coryelle.

Virginia and the county underwent redistricting this year, which required extra staff time, she said, and the party primaries were moved from June to late August, shortening the time to prepare for the general election.

“We’ve got a lot of things hitting us all at once,” Coryelle said.

Although the notice arrived too late to get the ballots or electronic voting machines changed, Coryelle said the election staff has been scrambling to get signs and other materials translated and printed in Spanish. Bilingual county staff from other departments have assisted with the translations, she said.

We naturalize immigrants who don’t demonstrate English proficiency when they’re elderly (even as young as 50, sometimes) or in a few other special circumstances, and while I don’t quite understand the rationale behind all of those decisions, it’s the law right now.  If you really want to be a citizen, you probably can find a way to understand the language of this country, if not simply for the opportunity to participate fully in American society rather than be a second-class citizen who cannot fully participate in what’s going on, regardless of voting rights.  I can’t imagine perpetually living in a state where I’m separated from the rest of society by a language barrier that I could tear down myself if I chose to do it.

The likelihood that Fairfax County really does have a huge population of voters who need Spanish ballots is small, though.  The determination on whether the electoral board needs to jump through these hoops isn’t based on voter demographics, but on population demographics of persons of voting age.  You dump 10,000 Spanish Speaking illegal aliens in a county who aren’t eligible to vote and presto, the law says you have to start developing Spanish-speaking voter materials.  That makes no sense at all.  It’s like requiring infantry units be supplied with tampons for every soldier when women aren’t assigned to combat units, because women might show up sometime.

We’re paying a lot of money to develop and produce these voter matierals and there’s no indication at all that they’re really needed.  When Virginia could instead simply make translators available by phone (that could be used in the voting booth) to non-English speakers to meet actual needs when they arise, in addition to Virginia’s curious law that allows translators to personally assist in the voting booth (who are often political operatives not assisting voters, but telling them what to do) we’d solve the problem and spend a lot less money doing so.  Meet the actual need, not a crazy worst-case scenario that will never happen.

In short, define the need, and define a solution that meets that need.  Not just wildly swing at a problem armed with seemingly inexhaustible supplies of taxpayer dollars.

If state or federal laws impose all sorts of unrealistic burdens on our elections, we’ll be shifting resources from where they’re need to where they’re not.  With all the challenges elections officials face during a redistricting year where all the boundaries shift, election cycles are compressed, and lots of voters need assistance in navigating all the changes, imposing foreign language requirements when there’s no clear demonstration of need is nonsense.  It doesn’t help ensure the smooth operation of elections, it actually throws sand in the gears.

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  1. Holly said on 20 Oct 2011 at 10:43 pm:
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    Another Dumb Government Mandate
    Napolitano: DHS Authorizing Illegal Aliens to Work in U.S.
    CNSNews.com) — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that under the administration’s policy of exercising “prosecutorial discretion” in the enforcement of the immigration laws, her department is currently authorizing some illegal aliens to work in the United States.

    Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Napolitano: “According to the information from your department, some individuals who are given relief will obtain work authorizations. So people with no right to be in the country will be allowed to work here. Is that correct?”

    Napolitano said: “Well, senator, since around 1986 there has been a process where those who are technically unlawfully in the country may apply for work authorization. This goes to CIS [Citizenship and Immigration Services]. It’s not an ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or CBP [Customs and Border Protection] function. And those cases are reviewed by CIS in a case-by-case basis. So there’s no change in that process. Like I said, that goes back to the mid-80s that is contemplated now.”

    Sen. Grassley then asked, “But yes, some of them could have an opportunity to work here even though they are here illegally?”

    “Well, that happens now, senator,” said Napolitano.

    The three agencies she mentioned are all components of DHS.

    Although Napolitano did not specify what 1986 policy she was referring to in her response to Sen. Grassley, President Ronald Reagan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act into law in November of that year. The act applied to illegal aliens who requested a change of status within 18 months of the law’s passage and who had come into the United States prior to Jan. 1, 1982, and had resided in America since that time.

    According to the latest figures from the Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent and the number of unemployed persons has reached at least 14 million.

    In a June 17 memo, ICE Director John Morton ordered federal immigration officials to use “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding which illegal aliens to remove from the country.

    The purpose of the “prosecutorial discretion” policy is to remove the worst offenders while releasing others, particularly victims of domestic violence and other crimes; witnesses to crimes; or people who are charged with minor traffic violations.

    “Exercising favorable discretion, such as release from detention and deferral or a stay of removal generally will be appropriate,” Morton said, unless the unauthorized alien poses national security concerns, has a “serious criminal history,” poses a threat to public safety, is a human rights violator or is involved in “significant” immigration fraud.

    More @ http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/napolitano-dhs-authorizing-illegal-aliens-work-us

    “To all Americans. Even though these people are here illegally, and we are constitutionally bound to uphold both the rule of law AND The Constitution Of The United States Of America; THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ARE GOING TO DO WHATEVER THEY PLEASE!

    We will sue those states who dare to enforce the federal immigration laws that we REFUSE enforce; and will continue to REWARD those sanctuary cities that openly flout the immigration laws of The United States! Because we need the votes! You see real taxpaying Americans won’t vote for us - which is why we’ve got Joe speaking to 4th graders. They’re the only one gullible enough to buy anyting from Team 0bama And besides this current administration has promised me a TWENTY PIECES OF SILVER if I promise to ignore that whole Constitution and rule of law thing…

  2. Gaius Baltar said on 21 Oct 2011 at 5:43 am:
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    Very true Greg. In some of the most heavily populated Spanish speaking areas such as Culmore, there are very few voters that only speak Spanish. Sadly, also in such neighborhoods we are seeing a decline in civic engagement in general as well.

    It is very sad that in these times, our tax dollars must go toward something like this

  3. Dan said on 21 Oct 2011 at 1:59 pm:
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    Not to rain on the “the government is evil” party here, but just how much of a burden is this? Really?

    You translate a few voter forms. That has to be done once. Okay, if a form is updated or changed in a few years you need to re-check the translation. Not much in the way of cost associated with that.

    Now it does cost something to print forms in two languages, but you certainly don’t have to print nearly as many in Spanish as you do in English. We are not talking about a major expense here.

    People are constantly talking about voters who are ill informed or “low information”. Of course, they usually use those terms to describe voters with whom they disagree and mean it as an insult. They don’t seem to be able to imagine that anyone could have an opinion other than their own without being stupid or ill informed. This says a lot more about them than about those they are trying to insult.

    But I digress. If the goal is to insure that ALL voters are able to participate in the political process easily and in an informed manner then this seems like a very good idea. We are talking about people who have come to America and become citizens and who want to fully participate in our political process but who are not yet proficient in the English language. This seems like something that should be encouraged.

    Of course there must be some threshold before the translated election materials are required. I wouldn’t expect to have the Electoral Board printing ballots in Tagalog if there weren’t a large number of Filipino voters in the district. But I would think erring on the low side would be preferable to erring on the high side. Since the electoral process is of such vital importance to us all.

  4. Isophorone said on 22 Oct 2011 at 7:49 am:
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    So is ballot information printed in English in Mexico or anywhere in Latin America? This is another example of how government imposes a last-minute burden on local governments. Yeah, maybe it is minor, but it adds up with a bunch of other “minor” burdens. Besides, does this mean that we should be forced to bend over for every such mandate? Did the Feds accurately calculate the burdens for local governments? Could they have given a waiver for local governments that had elections within a year of the mandate being issued?

    Given the amount of time and requirements that the government imposes to become a voting citizen, isn’t it incumbent on the citizen to learn English in order to make an informed voting decision? Besides, there are many private organizations that are more than willing to translate these materials without the Feds imposing a mandate on local government.

  5. hazegray said on 23 Oct 2011 at 6:25 pm:
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    If you don’t speak English you don’t have the information needed to make yourself a knowledgeable voter….end of story. Next we’ll be having “readers” for illiterates at the voting booth!

  6. Jack said on 24 Oct 2011 at 9:50 am:
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    The democrats want the ignorant and illiterate to vote, because they vote overwhelmingly for democrats.

    The Democrat Party is the ignorant lead by the evil.

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