The 56 Congressmen are also correct that foreign-language ballots are a burden on local taxpayers. Remember how the Republican Congress elected in 1994 promised to rid us of unfunded mandates?
Foreign-language ballots are a good place to start because they function like a tax Congress imposes on state and local taxpayers in the 466 local jurisdictions across 31 states that must provide foreign-language ballots.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that Los Angeles County taxpayers spent $1.1 million to provide ballots and election materials in five languages in 1996, escalating to $3.3 million in seven languages in March 2002. In several counties, the cost of foreign-language ballots is more than half the entire election expense.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is coming up for reauthorization next year, was an important civil rights law because it eliminated barriers that historically had kept many black citizens from voting.
Blacks didn't and don't need foreign-language ballots but, during the law's reauthorization in 1975, it was hijacked by those who wanted to pander to foreign-speaking minorities.
The choice of minorities is very discriminatory. The foreign-language mandate was limited to Americans of "Spanish Heritage," Asian Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives, while Italian, German, French and other languages are excluded from the law.
Before each election, the U.S. Department of Justice issues regulations that require states and counties to provide foreign-language ballots if more than 5 percent or more than 10,000 citizens of voting-age belong to one of the favored language groups.
The number and the complexity of languages makes the mandate for foreign-language ballots completely impractical. For example, there might be enough Filipinos to meet the threshold for foreign-language ballots, but the Filipinos themselves might speak any one of mutually unintelligible languages.
The self-proclaimed National Commission on the Voting Rights Act (a private group), which includes such partisan activists as Bill Lann Lee, John H. Buchanan, and Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, slyly admits that it doesn't want Congress to make the foreign-language section permanent because it would be vulnerable to constitutional challenge as "race conscious." These partisans just want to continue the fiction that this section is "temporary."
The foreign-language sections of the Voting Rights Act should be allowed to expire in 2007. This will be a major step toward more honest elections and the achievement of our national motto, e pluribus unum, out of many, one.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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