Congressman Mike Coffman has backed off a controversial plan to squelch voting ballots in languages other than English. The Aurora Republican announced plans last month to introduce legislation that would repeal a provision of the 1973 Voting Rights Act mandating ballots in two languages in places where a substantial number of voting-age residents struggle with English.
“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 whatsoever,” Coffman said in a statement announcing his plan.
But this week, Coffman issued a statement saying he abandoned the plan due to its bleak political future.
“I would prefer to repeal that section of the law that pertains to the requirement for local governments to provide dual-language ballots,” he said. “But I know that will not pass the Congress so I’m looking at alternatives that will reduce the impact of what has been a costly unfunded federal mandate on local election officials.”
Coffman said he is working with elections officials to find a way to provide dual-language election materials only to those who need them and not to every voter.
Under the Voting Rights Act, communities where 5 percent of voters don’t speak English are required to provide election materials in a second language. Adams and Arapahoe counties haven’t been required to provide Spanish-language ballots in the past, and it isn’t yet clear from U.S. Census data if the counties will have to in 2012.