AZ Senate Eliminates Spanish Election Material

So this really isn’t about immigrants, undocumented or not. The folks in power in Arizona don’t want anything in their state that doesn’t look or sound like they do. This recent vote in the Arizona state senate proves the point.

The bill, SB1490 proposed by Maricopa County Senator Steve Smith, bars the production of all government material in laguanges other than English. The Arizona Senate has approved it. The Bill, according to some observers, targets election material; specifically, according to the Yuma Sun, it is

aimed at the brochures mailed out before every general election by the Secretary of State’s Office detailing all the measures on the ballot as well as the recommendations of a commission on whether judges should be retained in office.

And apparently that’s the technicality on which Sen. Smith hangs his bill. He says his bill is legal because it only bars material mailed prior to an election. Opponents say that the Voting Rights Act of 1968 is clear on the matter.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the state can’t do that. She said the National Voting Rights Act, approved by Congress in 1965, requires that all voting materials be available in both English and that of minorities.

Smith said his SB 1409 does not run afoul of that law. He noted that it would not apply to the ballots themselves but only to the other voting materials.

The bottom line, though, is that Arizona is one of nine states that is required by federal law to get “preclearance” from the Justice Department for any changes to election laws. This was done to protect minority voters – especially language minorities.  The booklets have already been precleared, along with the requirement that they be mailed in languages other than English. Still, Smith is adamant. He says translated booklets will be made available, as the Voting rights Act requires, on the Internet and at certain elections offices – a technicality that will more than likely be rejected at the Justice Department.

This latest bill pulls the covers off of what’s really happening in Arizona. The extreme right-wing movement over there isn’t only against immigrants. This legislation takes the anti-other sentiments of SB1070 and uses it to challenge the basic rights of citizens. Their idea is to pick a fight anywhere they can – to challenge the rights and legitimacy of minority citizens.

In 2006 Arizona voters approved a state constitutional amendment that requires that all official government acts be done in English. A recently approved amendment in the Arizona senate permits conversations between government officials and the public to be done in other languages. The Senator who proposed the amendment, Don Shooter, of Yuma, defends the elections publication language ban.

“So it’s not what people are making it out to be,” Shooter continued. “It’s just saying that if you come here, you need to work with us and be part of our culture, too.”

The bill has yet to be considered in the House.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by Steve Rhodes]

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