HENDERSON, Nevada — A Republican congressional candidate in Las Vegas wants to get rid of the Voting Rights Act’s guarantee that citizens can receive a ballot in their native language if they’re not comfortable speaking English.
ThinkProgress spoke with Chris Edwards, the GOP nominee in Nevada’s 1st congressional district, at a candidate forum last week about whether English should be the official language, even if that meant all ballots would have to be printed in English only. “I think that’s a smarter approach,” Edwards said. “That’s not too much to ask for, expect, or do.”
KEYES: I know one of the issues that comes up every once in a while is whether or not English should be declared the official language of the United States, which would necessitate all the government documents, all the government ballots only be in English. Do you where you would stand on that?
EDWARDS: I think that’s a smarter approach, especially when you look at it historically. I know that a lot of people prefer to have multiple languages and so on, but if you look at things throughout world history, when a nation has a common language, they’re able to talk with one another better and able to work with one another better and society is better for it. [...]
KEYES: Even if that meant not having, because right now we allow for instance ballots to be printed in Spanish or other languages. Even if it meant that? [...]
EDWARDS: My preference would be that we make that. That’s not too much to ask for, expect, or do.
Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act protects those American citizens who aren’t native English speakers by requiring all government election materials, including ballots, to be translated wherever 5 percent of the local population or more than 10,000 adult citizens speak a different language. For example, because of recent upticks in Asian voter populations, San Diego County is now translating ballots into Mandarin and Vietnamese.
Currently, over one-quarter of Nevada’s 1st congressional district residents are Latino. For many citizens, ballots in Spanish help them fully understand their vote without having to employ an outside translator.
Edwards’ desire to outlaw translated ballots is just the latest attack on voting rights that could disproportionately impact minority voters. Elsewhere, states have passed voter ID laws and legislation requiring proof of citizenship to register in order to combat the non-existent threat of voter fraud.