Didn’t get to this yesterday, but the Washington Post had an editorial endorsing bilingual ballots. At the end, the Post’s editorialists state that they “don’t doubt that many more people will vote, and in an informed way, if they know what they’re voting on.” Yes, and everyone in this country has a way to make an informed vote. It’s called learning English.
What’s missing from the Post‘s editorial is the fact that few things divide a nation more than the lack of a common language. There’s nothing wrong with citizen’s knowing more than one tongue–I’m all for it. But all citizens should know one common language. Look at Canada (Quebec, specifically) for what can happen when a country has a large swath of citizens who cannot speak the same language as the majority.
While it is likely true that, as the Post states, “there are [not] many people who will decide to learn, or not to learn, English based on the availability of bilingual ballots,” it is beside the point. With bilingual ballots the state empowers a constituency that is resistant to learning English. The more they vote without having to know English, the more they will support policies that divide us along language, such as bilingual education. The Post unwittingly concedes this:
When bilingual assistance is provided, voting participation increases and members of the affected groups have a better shot at winning elections. Hispanic voter registration in Yakima County, Wash., went up 24 percent after the Justice Department sued the county for failing to comply with the law. After Justice reached an agreement with Harris County, Texas, turnout of Vietnamese American voters doubled, and the first Vietnamese American was elected to the state legislature.
The right to vote is like any other right in that it is not absolute. It is subject to reasonable restrictions, like being free of a criminal record or requiring ID. Knowing English should be another.