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November 24, 2005


Phil Paule

¿Sería possiable traducir el Norby de Op. Sys.-op-ed a español de modo que Nativo Lopez sea feliz?


No cuidamos si Nativo Lopez es feliz.


Norby on target again; it's quite simple:
- One has to be proficient in English to become citizen;
- One has to be a citizen to vote;
- Therefore, English only ballots are needed.


no, you don't have to be proficient in English to become a citizen. you can have someone translate for you.


Not true, exactly.


Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:

* have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age;
* have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age; or
* have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn English.

So it is possible to not understand any english at all, but it seems unlikely. In my opinion it should be a requirement.


In any case, it costs over $55 to accomodate each voter who wants to vote in a language other than english. I don't much think the taxpayers should have to pay that, especially if the voter

1. Speaks or understands english well enough.
2. Could vote in english if the accommodation were not available.

It has also not been established how many if any of those 10,506 voters mentioned in the Norby column were actually citizens and eligible to vote.

It's pretty much illegal to ask, you know.

What if half of them (or more) are just non citizens who either registered through ignorance, or on purpose? We are paying to translate ballots for non citizens voting illegally? What for?


as long as we have citizens that have substantial difficulty reading and writing in english, which is undoubtedly true, then we should not hinder people's right to vote based on an ideal of a single language for all. its not a matter of whether its a good idea that we have english as the official language, its a matter of if we should accomodate people that potentially have an impediment in voting. the next thing you know, people might start arguing that we shouldn't accomodate disabled people at polling places because they cost the taxpayers extra money, and some of them really aren't that disabled - or could just vote absentee. certainly a stretch, but when all we engage in this type of talking about how much things cost the taxpayer, we are really just gonna talk about all the things that most of us don't need but are paid for by the taxpayers.

as for your hypothetical on noncitizens, i think people are rightly militant about voter fraud, but really don't know the facts about it. i am one of those types, but i think that there are far fewer people voting illegally than most people think. however, i need to educate myself on this even more. but if its an excuse for neo-con republicans to deny likely democratic-voting latinos, then i am sure that people will keep putting that argument forward - regardless of the facts.

Since many Vietnamese Americans in Little Saigon requested a ballot in their native language, why don't you ask Van Tran? Didn't he help register many of these "Republican" voters?


The problem I see is that most ballot language and propositions are written in complete gobbledygook that can be hard for many immigrants to understand. Drop the multiple languages but force the text on the ballot and the instructions to be written at a 6th grade reading level (instead of 10th as they currently are). Adopt the Easy Voter Guide as the default text for each proposition and for the explanations in the voter handbook, with an additional in depth analysis in the back similar to the legislative analysis, which was written for college-educated legislators and their staffers. Force the AG to write his ballot descriptions at a sixth or seventh grade level. (http://www.easyvoter.org/)


Calwatch, that's a problem but not THE problem.

The fact is that ballot propositions are hard to understand and hard to analyze. It would be great is it weren't so but that is not likely to change. It's law, it's complicated. Hard to anticipate the weak arguments that are brought to courts repeatedly to change that law. So yeah, it's complicated.

No one has the ability to take very complicated issues and translate them perfectly into 9 different languages on the off chance someone might want to read American law in some foreign language.

It's American law after all. It was written in English.

So the solution is this: If you want to take full part in our American society, you will need a knowledge of English. Not that you can't live here and not speak English but it will be more difficult for some interactions with government.

It's a simple standard. Hardly English as official language.

I am not against accomodation where reasonable, or possible. But in many cases the issues are so complex it just can't be done, or is not econonmic to do so.

You can get 10 Tagalog translators and have them translate the Revenue and Taxation code and get 10 different translations and 10 different opinions on what that actually says. They could argue about what something means for years.

Heck, there are whole court cases trying to decide what that means in english! Do we really need another layer of abstraction?


You're right there, Screech. We have an entire legal industry dedicated to wrangling over the meaning of laws written in English. Now in our effort to be ever so politically correct we stumble into this idiotic receding hall of mirrors where we just MAKE THINGS WORSE and have to foot the bill in the process.



While I do agree with you, Screech, on the actual petition itself, it seems to me that ballot language and analysis (not the actual text of the law, which has to be parsed for lawyers) needs to be made simpler so that everybody can understand it. Otherwise propositions are easily demonized. Look, for instance, at Proposition 76. It would have been nice if the analysis was written in a simple way so that everyone knew that it reduced the rate of increase, and didn't unilaterally cut everything. But unfortunately the text of the legislative analyst's description was way too complicated and so the unions were able to scream "they're cutting education" too easily.

Green Machine

I just saw a story on FOX News. It seems the State Assembly is looking at a law that would mandate translators be provided by any medical practioners.

Evidently the old method of using family members or children to translate isn't good enough.

Supporters of the law believe the translators should be paid for by higher medical costs and public funding.

The ballot translation issue is just the beggining! Now is the time to put a stop to this endless need to accomodate every person who comes to this country with limited language skills.

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