End Foreign-Language Ballot Mandate

The House of Representatives is set this week to renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another 25 years. But one provision in the bill, added to the act 10 years after it was first enacted, must be changed. This is the mandate that forces states and communities to provide ballots in foreign languages.

Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) has proposed an amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook (R.-Okla.), which would strip this foreign-language mandate from the VRA. His amendment deserves an up or down vote, and the support of all Americans who believe this nation ought to remain united by a common language.

The House Rules Committee — chaired by Rep. David Dreier (R.-Calif.) and closely controlled by the House Republican leadership — may thwart King’s effort by preventing any vote at all on his amendment when the VRA goes to the House floor this Thursday. The committee meets tomorrow to decide that question.

Last month, King sent a letter to the House leadership simply requesting a vote on his amendment. The letter was co-signed by 79 other Members. Later, the House leadership was forced to postpone the vote on the VRA after a contentious GOP conference meeting in which members vociferously complained that the leadership was stonewalling on King’s amendment.

King argued in his letter to the leadership that multilingual ballots encourage cultural divisions and burden taxpayers. They also make a mockery of the requirement that immigrants need “to read and understand English in order to become naturalized citizens.” King later told HUMAN EVENTS that reauthorizing the VRA for another 25 years with the foreign-ballot mandates still in it “effectively institutionalizes them in perpetuity in America.”

King is right. The House leaders should allow a vote on his amendment. Foreign-language ballots will not unite Americans, but divide them. A Republican Congress has no business mandating them on local government.