U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman announced plans Wednesday to introduce legislation that would repeal a section of the 1973 Voting Rights Act that requires jurisdictions with large populations of nonproficient English speakers to print ballots in more than one language.
Coffman, R-Colo., asserts that Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act is an unnecessary and unfunded federal mandate that can be a financial hardship for some jurisdictions because of the increased cost of translating and printing election materials and mailing larger ballots.
“Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman said. Applicants for naturalization must demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak and understand a limited amount of basic English.
Immigrant-rights advocates see Coffman’s proposal as an attempt to disenfranchise eligible voters and an attack on one of the most important rights of citizens. “We are talking about U.S. citizens, whether they were born here or not,” said Elena Nunez, program director with Colorado Common Cause.
“For us, this is a serious concern to our community because any effort to create barriers marginalizes our community,” said Olivia Mendoza, director with the Colorado Latino Forum.