No Bilingual Ballots

Conservative Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) is battling to strip the foreign-language ballot mandate from the Voting Rights Act (VRA) before the act is re-authorized for another 25 years.

The VRA currently requires state and local governments to provide ballots in foreign languages, even though immigrants are required to demonstrate an ability to read and understand English before they can be naturalized. King sought to remove the mandate in the Judiciary Committee but was thwarted by Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.), who inexplicably supports foreign-language ballots. The House leadership then planned to force passage of VRA under a “suspension of the rules” that would have prevented King from offering an amendment on the floor to remove the mandate. The suspension of the rules, however, would have required the bill to win a two-thirds vote. King responded with a June 16 letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) and Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio.), objecting to the procedural maneuver. Seventy-nine members co-signed the letter. But the leaders didn’t budge. They scheduled a June 22 vote on VRA—under suspension of the rules. That led to a contentious June 21 House Republican Conference meeting at which many members demanded a vote on King’s amendment. The June 22 vote on VRA was cancelled. But the question remains: Will Republican leaders allow a vote to terminate the federal mandate of foreign-language ballots? King won’t stop fighting because he wants to keep the Melting Pot working. “If we reauthorize mandated foreign language ballots until 2032,” he told Human Events, “it effectively institutionalizes them in perpetuity in America, and I think it fractures our culture and may end up destroying us as a nation.”