Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Thursday said that if Congress decides to patch the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court recent declared parts of it unconstitutional then there would be “no logical reason ballots should be in anything other than English.”
During a House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing, King insisted that fellow lawmakers who thought that “preclearance” of election law changes was a “reasonable device” should also think that “voter ID would be a reasonable device.”
“I wouldn’t know where to go look to find real voter intimidation and real discrimination,” King opined. “So I think there is more damage that comes to our election system from lack of voter ID then might come from voter intimidation.”
“And when I think about the discussion about bringing up the Voting Rights Act and perhaps re-writing it, that would mean that the authorization would be also subject,” he continued. “And I question the wisdom of an authorization that would last for more than a generation, 25 years… and so the 25-year re-authorization of 2006, I thought was imprudent. That’s one of the reasons I voted against it.”
King added that he wanted to see “improvement in the integrity of the individual ballot.”
“I think if we bring up the Voting Rights Act and we have an opportunity then to open it up, I think multilingual ballots become a question,” he suggested. “There’s no logical reason that ballots should be in anything other than English. If you take a citizenship test, that’s the English — you have to demonstrate proficiency in English.”
In 1975, Congress added Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act because it found that “through the use of various practices and procedures, citizens of language minorities have been effectively excluded from participation in the electoral process.”
Section 203 requires locations that have a population of more than 5 percent of non-Eglish speakers to provide multilingual ballots.
While King is correct that citizenship applicants are required to take naturalization tests in English, exemptions are possible for older people and those with mental and physical disabilities. It is also not unusual for natural-born citizens with immigrant parents and Native Americans to not speak English as their primary language.
Listen to this audio from the U.S. House, broadcast July 18, 2013.
(h/t: NBC News)