John McCaslin

The era of forced multilingual ballots "hit a new low" when the town of Briny Breezes, Fla., was forced to print election notices in Spanish despite the fact everybody understands English.

Furthermore, federal law required leaders of the tiny oceanfront retirement community to provide bilingual election information to residents - even though there was no election to hold.

"This is the epitome of government multilingualism gone amok," says U.S. English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica, whose office is one block from the White House. "How many communities will have to throw away precious tax dollars to fund unnecessary multilingual services?"

Mujica, who immigrated to the United States from Chile, says Briny Breezes "has gotten caught up in the ugly tentacles of the Voting Rights Act," which requires all towns within a county to print ballots in foreign languages when the number of foreign language speakers in that county rises above a certain threshold.

Two years ago, tony Palm Beach County was informed that more than 5 percent of its voters were Spanish-speaking, forcing each of its 37 municipalities to print ballots in Spanish and provide bilingual poll workers.

But U.S. census statistics show that 99 percent of Briny Breezes' population of 411, 98 percent of whom are U.S. citizens, speak English "very well." And talk about being U.S. citizens for a long time, the town's median age is 70, double the U.S. average of 35. Nevertheless, the town was required to print a double-sided notice - one side in English, the other in Spanish - to inform residents that there would be no election.


We've written about George W. Bush's first political job in 1967, when he was press aide to Rep. Edward J. Gurney, a Florida Republican running for the Senate. The future president herded reporters onto the campaign's propeller-driven press plane and into their hotel rooms, and woke them back up again at 6 a.m. He was described as being "very cordial" with reporters and quite the organizer.

Even with his full contingent of press aides today, Bush still prefers to set the parameters for members of the Fourth Estate. Consider Wednesday's exchange with reporters during an Oval Office visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"Here's what we're going to do," Bush told scribes. "I will make a statement. The president will make a statement. I will then call upon an American correspondent to ask a question. The president will call upon a Georgian correspondent. We'll have two questions per side."

Except when both leaders concluded their statements, it was a Georgian reporter who tried to pose the first question.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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