United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act : hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 351 ... April 18, 1996 online

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^\ BIUNGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS REPEAL ACT

jY 4. J 89/1:104/68

Bilingual Uoting Requirenents Repes. . .

HEAKING

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIAKY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

ON

H.R 351

BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS REPEAL ACT



APRIL 18, 1996



Serial No. 68 ____

I OEPflSlTORy "

SEP 1 8 1996

Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary




U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1996



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office

Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402

ISBN 0-16-052969-7



(^\ BIUNGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS REPEAL MCI

Y 4. J 89/1:104/68

Bilingual Uoting Requirenents Repea. . .

HEARING

^ BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

OP THE

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

ON

H.R. 351

BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS REPEAL ACT



APRIL 18, 1996



Serial No. 68 ___




SEP 1 8 1936



"t^ i* r j:^, 5 :; ^-'_ ^



Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1996



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office

Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402

ISBN 0-16-052969-7



COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE. Illinois. Chairman



CARLOS J. MOORHEAD. California
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,

Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE. North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
MARTIN R. HOKE, Ohio
SONNY BONO, California
FRED HEINEMAN, North Carolina
ED BRYANT. Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
MICHAEL PATRICK FLANAGAN, Illinois
BOB BARR, Georgia



JOHN CONYERS. Jr.. Michigan
PATRICIA SCHROEDER, Colorado
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CR\RLES E. SCHUMER. New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN. California
RICK BOUCHER. Virginia
JOHN BRYANT. Texas
JACK REED. Rhode Island
JERROLD NADLER. New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT. Vir^nia
MELVIN L. WATT. North Carolina
XAVIER BECERRA. Cahfomia
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE. Texas



ALAN F. Coffey, Jr.. General Counsel I Staff Director
Julian Epstein. Minority Staff Director



Subcommittee on the Constitution

CHARLES T. CANADY. Florida. Chairman



HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
MICHAEL PATRICK FLANAGAN. Illinois
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,

Wisconsin
MARTIN R. HOKE, Ohio
LAMAR SMITH. Texas
BOB GOODLATTE. Virginia



BARNEY FRANK. Massachusetts
MELVIN L. WATT. North Carolina
JOHN CONYERS. Jr.. Michigan
PATRICIA SCHROEDER. Colorado



0.;it



Kathryn A. HazEEM, Chief Counsel

WiLUAM L. McGrath. Counsel

Keri D. Harrison. Assistant Counsel

John H. LadD. Assistant Counsel

Robert Raben. Minority Counsel



(II)



CONTENTS



HEARING DATE



Page

April 18, 1996 1

TEXT OF BILL

H.R. 351 2

OPENING STATEMENT

Canady, Hon. Charles T., a Representative in Congress from the State of
Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution 1

WITNESSES

Becerra, Hon. Xavier, a Representative in Congress from the State of Califor-
nia 7

Chavez, Linda, president, Center for Equal Opportunity 73

Fairey, Frances, Yuba County clerk, recorder, and registrar of voters,
Marysville, CA 69

Hernandez, Antonia, president and general counsel, Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund 62

King, Hon. Peter T., a Representative in Congress from the State of New
York 14

Livingston, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Louisi-
ana 16

Narasaki, Karen K., executive director. National Asian Pacific American
Legal Consortium 24

Patrick, Deval L., Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S.
Department of Justice 47

Porter, Hon. John Edward, a Representative in Congress from the State
of Illinois 5

Rotunda, Ronald D., Albert E. Jenner, Jr., Professor of Law, University
of Dlinois College of Law 32

Silber, John, president, Boston University 20

Velaquez, Hon. Nydia M., a Representative in Congress from the State of
New York 12

LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING

Becerra, Hon. Xavier, a Representative in Congress from the State of Califor-
nia 9

Chavez, Linda, president. Center for Equal Opportunity: Prepared statement . 75

Chinese for Affirmative Action: Prepared statement 45

Fairey, Frances, Yuba County clerk, recorder, and registrar of voters,

Marysville, CA: Prepared statement 70

Flanagan, Hon. Michael Patrick, a Representative in Congress from the State
of Illinois: Prepared statement 19

Hernandez, Antonia, president and general counsel, Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund: Prepared statement 63

King, Hon. Peter T., a Representative in Congress from the State of New
York: Prepared statement 15

Lipinski, Hon. William O., a Representative in Congress from the State
of Illinois 18

Livingston, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Louisi-
ana: Prepared statement 17

(III)



IV

Page

Naraaaki, Karen K., executive director, National Asian Pacific Anaerican

Legal Consortium: Prepared statement 26

Patrick, Deval L., Assistant Attorney General, Civiil Rights Division, U^.

Department of Justice: Prepared statement 50

Porter, Hon. John Edward, a Representative in Congress from the State

of Dlinois: Prepared statement 6

Rotunda, Ronald D., Albert E. Jenner, Jr., Professor of Law, University

of Illinois Colle^ of Law: Prepared statement 34

Silber, John, president, Boston University: Prepared statement 22

Velaquez, Hon. Nydia M., a Representative m Congress from the State of

New York: Prepared statement 13

APPENDK
Material submitted for the hearing. 83



BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS
REPEAL ACT



THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 1996

House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Constitution

Committee on the Judiciary,

Washington, DC.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:38 a.m., in room
2226, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Charles T. Canady
(chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Present: Representatives Charles T. Canady, Bob Inglis, Michael
Patrick Flanagan, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Lamar Smith, Bob
Goodlatte, Barney Frank, and Melvin L. Watt.

Also present: Kathryn A. Hazeem, chief counsel; John H. Ladd,
assistant counsel; Mark Carroll, staflF assistant; and Robert Raben,
minority counsel.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN CANADY

Mr. Canady. The subcommittee will come to order. I want to
thank all the witnesses for being here today. My voice comes and
goes, so I am going to turn over the Chair to Mr. Goodlatte. But
I do want to thank all the witnesses and all those participating
today. I'd like to ask now that Mr. Goodlatte take the Chair.

Mr. Goodlatte [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Government mandated bilingualism does not work. It may be
designated to be inclusive, but in reality it is separatist in nature.
It would create two neighboring separate but equal cultures, and
it would begin to tear at the fabric of what makes us Americans
unique in our diversity. Bilingual ballots do not increase voting
participation by language minorities, nor do they guarantee, as the
proponents have argued, the ability to cast an independent in-
formed vote. An independent and informed vote depends not so
much on the language of the ballot, but on the abilitv to make an
independent and informed decision after listening to the candidates
and learning about the issues.

[The bill, H.R. 351, follows:]



(1)



104th congress
1st Session



H.R.351



To amend the Votinp Riphts Act of 1965 to eliiniiiati' certain pnAnsions
relating to bilingual voting requirements.



IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATR^S

Jaxi:ary 4. 1995

Mr. Porter introduced the follounng bill; which wa.s referred to the

Committee on the Judician-



A BILL

To amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to ehminate certain
provisions relating to bihngual voting requirements.

1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-

2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

3 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

4 This Act may be cited as the "Bihngual Voting Re-

5 quirements Repeal Act of 1995".

6 SEC. 2. REPEAL OF BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS.

7 (a) Bilingual Election Requikeaients. — Section

8 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-

9 la) is repealed.



3



1 (b) Voting RuiiiTs. — Section 4 of the Votino; Riphts

2 Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973b) is amended by striking-

3 subsection (f).

4 SEC. 3. CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.

5 (a) References to Section 203. — The Voting

6 Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended—

7 (1) in section 204, by striking "or 203."; and

8 (2) in the first sentence of section 205, by

9 striking ", 202, or 203" and inserting "or 202".

10 (b) References to Section 4. — The Voting

1 1 Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended—

12 (1) in sections 2(a), 3(a), 3(b), 3(c), 4(d), 5, 6,

13 and 13, by striking ", or in contravention of the

14 guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2)";

15 (2) in paragraphs (1)(A) and (3) of section

16 4(a), by striking "or (in the case of a State or sub-

17 division seeking a declaratory^ judgment under the

18 second sentence of this subsection) in contravention

19 of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2)"; and

20 (3) in paragraphs (1)(B) and (5) of section

21 4(a), by striking "or (in the case of a State or sub-

22 division which sought a declaratory judgment under

23 the second sentence of this subsection) that denials

24 or abridgments of the right to vote in contravention

25 of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred



3

1 anywhere in the territon- of such State or subdi\i-

2 sion".

O



On our first panel today, we will hear from six distinguished col-
leagues. First we will hear fi-om the sponsor and author of H.R.
351, Congressman John Porter. Congressman Porter has rep-
resented Illinois' 10th District for nine terms. He is the chairman
of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appro-
priations Subcommittee.

Following Congressman Porter will be Congressman Bob Living-
ston. Congressman Livingston has served Louisiana's First District
since 1977 and is the chairman of the House Appropriations Com-
mittee.

Next to testify will be Congressman Xavier Becerra, who rep-
resents the 30th District of California. Congressman Becerra is a
member of the Judiciary Committee and the Economic and Edu-
cational Opportunities Committee.

We will also hear from Congressman Bill Lipinski, who hails
from Chicago. Congressman Lipinski has represented the Third
District of Illinois since 1983, and is a member of the Transpor-
tation and Infrastructure Committee.

Next we will hear from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. She
represents New York's 12th District, and is a member of the Bank-
ing and Financial Services and Small Business Committees.

Concluding our first panel will be Congressman Peter King from
the Third District of New York. Congressman King serves on the
Banking and Financial Services Committee and International Rela-
tions Committee.

We welcome you all. Without objection, your full statements will
be made part of the record. I ask you to summarize your testimony
in 5 minutes. We'll begin with Congressman Porter. Welcome.

STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN EDWARD PORTER, A REPRESENT-
ATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Mr. Porter. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the oppor-
tunity to testify this morning regarding H.R. 351. Mr. Chairman,
it is perhaps trite but true that except for the original peoples,
America has always been a nation of immigrants. People came
from everywhere, the English, the Scotch, the Germans, the
Swedes, the Dutch, the Greeks, Africans, Irish, Italians, Poles,
Slavs, and many many others. Each retained their native cultures
and languages as was their right in our society to the extent that
they wished, and gradually integrated into American society and
learned the American language.

Until recently, except to help foreign visitors, there were no signs
in our country in other languages, no telephone instructions, and
no bilingual education programs that did not facilitate the learning
of English at an early age. The people who came, learned the
American language because they knew they could never get ahead
without it and because they wanted to be a part of this great land
of freedom.

As a teenager, my father taught Italian immigrants English and
they taught him Italian. It was a good deal for both. When he went
to college, he got A's in Italian as well as in Spanish and in French.

We have always known that to have a nation, we must have one
central language that we all share and that we all can commu-
nicate with one another with. Otherwise, we are simply a collection



of ethnic ghettos. Having one central language does not prevent us
from preserving our own cultures or using our own native lan-
guages. We are not talking here about the personal use of lan-
guage. We are talking about the official use of tankage.

Government began undermining the imperative to learn the
central language some time ago by making it easier not to. The in-
tention was probably very pure, but the concept certainly was not.
One of the most destructive and ill-conceived pieces of legislation
is one that permits citizens to conduct the most central or govern-
ment's affairs, elections, in languages other than the central Amer-
ican lan^age. Even though you cannot be in this country a natu-
ralized citizen without demonstrating, and I quote from the law "an
understanding of English, including an ability to read, write and
speak words in ordinary English usage."

Mr. Chairman, we may think that it is sensitive and loving to
immigrants not to burden them with the need to know and under-
stand the central language of America, English. Quite the opposite,
in my judgment, is true. All that we do to facilitate their function-
ing without English is to impede their opportunities and to con-
demn them to life in the ghetto without mobility in a society that
requires it, and without hope for getting ahead.

We are a nation of a big smile and a helping hand and the ability
to talk to one another. At a time of deep divisions within our soci-
ety. Government should not be putting its stamp of approval upon
those divisions, and indeed helping to facilitate them. Government
should be working to end them and to heal them. We should repeal
in my judgement, Mr. Chairman, every law that flies in the face
of this concept.

I thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Porter follows :1

Prepared Statement of Hon. John Edward Porter, a Representative in
Congress From the State of Ilunois

Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to testify on behalf of
H.R. 351, my legislation to repeal the bilingual ballot requirement.

I am very proud of our nation's diversity. For over 200 years the United States
has welcomed individuals from around the world who seek political, religious, and
economic freedom. By sharing their talents and experiences, these individuals
strengthen our countiy while enhancing our distinct culture.

The millions of individuals who have arrived at our borders have always partici-
pated in American society by embracing the English language. Of course, individ-
uals are free to use other languages as tney please, but English is the one language
that binds our nation's citizens together ana acts as the common denominator for
American life and discourse.

Recently however, we have begun to fragment our society by dividing ourselves
into minority language groups. Rather than pull all Americans together under the
use of a common language, we have promoted our separation into distinct ethnic
groups under very ill conceived amendments to the Voting Rights Act.

In 1975, we enacted amendments to require bilingual ballots in counties in which
five percent of the voting population were members of a single language minority
possessing an illiterao' rate nigher than the national average. In 1992, we further
expanded the scope of the Act by adding an alternative coverage formula for coun-
ties where there are more than 10,000 voting age citizens who are English deficient.

This law directly contradicts the value of our shared language and the responsibil-
ities imposed on anyone seeking American citizenship. Many proponents of this law
argue that considerable numbers of recently naturalized immigrants are not suffi-
ciently fluent in English to understand complicated election procedures and issues.
Also, supporters claim that some long-time U.S. citizens, who have grown up in eth-
nic communities and learned very little English in school, now need assistance. But,
since 1906, an immigrant seeking to become a naturalized United States citizen



must demonstrate oral English literacy. In 1950, Congress added the requirement
that persons who wish to become citizens must "demonstrate an understanding of
English, including an ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary English
usage."

If immigrants are gaining citizenship without knowing how to read English, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service is not enforcing the law. If eighteen year
old citizens, bom and raised in the United States, are illiterate in English, our edu-
cation system must be improved. I do not believe that multi-language oallots should
be used to fill any such gaps in our inmiigration and education systems.

Indeed, I believe that the government must not continue to condone an individ-
ual's lack of initiative or unwillingness to seize the opportunity to learn English. By
providing bilingual ballots, we are providing a disincentive to learn English. We are
giving our tacit approval to those who have evaded the law and we send a message
that it does not matter whether an American can speak English or not. This is the
wrong message.

In addition to its detrimental effects on our society, the multilingual ballot re-
quirement is a classic example of an unfunded federal mandate on local govern-
ments. I believe that local governments could find better ways to spend their
money — ^perhaps for English language classes for new immigrants.

Also, tne translation of sometimes complex ballot language used in referenda from
English to another language is not always accurate. On sensitive issues, such as eu-
thanasia or abortion, it is difficult enough to get English speakers to agree on the
wording of referenda, let alone on a difficult translation of these words. Even "sim-
ple" translations are sometimes wrong — in 1993, a New York City ballot erroneously
printed the Chinese character for "no" as a translation for "yes." Obviously, exact
translations cannot be taken for granted.

Mr. Chairman, I sincerely believe that every United States citizen has the respon-
sibility to cast informed votes during federal, state, and local elections. Participation
in our democratic process must be encouraged. But rather than provide bilingual
voting assistance — a practice that only fractionalizes our society and encourages in-
dividuals to remain outside of mainstream American society, we must make every
effort to encourage individuals to learn to communicate in English.

As the language of our country, persons who do not speak English face impedi-
ments to success. It harms these very persons when we reduce the pressure to learn
English or give the impression that our government does not consider English to
be important. While each of us should honor and preserve our own ethnic and cul-
tural identity, we must retain our common bond oflanguage. That language is Eng-
lish.

I thank the Constitution Subcommittee for addressing this important issue, and
I look forward to working with you to repeal this unnecessary, unfunded federal
mandate.

Mr. GooDLATTE, Thank you, Congressman Porter.

Congressman Livingston has not yet arrived. So we will move
ahead to Congressman Xavier Becerra. Congressman Becerra is a
member of the Judiciary Committee.

Welcome. Your statement will be made a part of the record. We'd
ask that you limit your remarks to 5 minutes.

STATEMENT OF HON. XAVIER BECERRA, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

Mr. Becerra. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the
members of the subcommittee for the opportunity to be here before
you.

Let me begin and try to veer a bit from my written remarks,
which I thank you for letting us submit for the record, and say the
following. This is not an issue when we talk about Voting Rights
Act, the act, and the ability of people to vote using a bilingual bal-
lot if necessary. This is not an issue of being either loving or sen-
sitive. This is an issue of being inclusive rather than exclusive in
our participation in this democracy of America.

It is also an effort to undue past heinous discrimination that oc-
curred against various populations in this country. We can look



8

back to the poll taxes, the precluded those who did not have the
moneys to pay for the ability to vote. We can talk about the literacy
tests that made it impossible for people who could not get edu-
cated, the opportunity to vote, and we can look at the cases of peo-
ple who were intimidated because they could not speak English
very well and being barred from the ability to exercise their fran-
chise as U.S. citizens.

Please let's remember that we're not talking about anyone who
is in this covmtry as an immigrant, as a legal resident. We are
speaking specifically about a population of people who has said if
they have come to this country, they have chosen to become U.S.
citizens. They have passed the test. They have sworn allegiance to
this country. They are now full-fledged participants, they hope, in
this country's society. Or we are tallong about people who were ac-
tually bom in this Nation.

Now to not allow people to participate, to exclude them because
perhaps they cannot communicate as well as perhaps or I can in
English, or perhaps understand what is written in some of these
ballots and for candidacy applications for office, is I think a sin.
Let's take a look at where we are today and see how important
what we did in 1975 was when we passed the Voting Rights Act
amendment which provided for bilingual ballots.

We are now at a point where you can go to California and you
may be hit with 10 to 15 propositions. When you take a look at
that voter pamphlet that you receive in the mail, which is usually
more than 100 pages long of the minutest of print, you could have
a graduate degree from any of the best universities in this country
and you will have a very difficult time understanding what the le-
galize in those provisions for those particular ballot measures say.
To expect someone with an average education and to expect some-
one who has an average education and is trying to learn English
to understand well, I think is at this stage ridiculous.

What we are talking about doing here with the bilingual ballot
is helping those who have said, "I wish to participate. I am a citi-
zen of this country and I wish to fully participate, but not just fully
participate. I want to participate knowingly. I don't want to make
a mistake. I want to make sure the person I vote for for president
or that initiative that talks about the death sentence for someone
or for increased taxes or for decreased taxes is the right thing to
do." To not let the person do that, because we believe that we must
exclusively deal in a language, English, which is by everyone's
measure the language of use of this country, I think unfortunately
is unrealistic.

We are not trying to be loving to people. We are trying to get
them to become fiilly participatory so that next year perhaps, they
will have been able to learn the language well enough so that they
will not need the ballot.

What you find in those jurisdictions that have used the ballot is
that the expense is minimal. I hope we hear some evidence that it's
not, because maybe then there is a reason to undo this. I hope we
also hear evidence that there has never been discrimination
against a population of people that have been trying to learn Eng-
lish. I suspect what you will find is just the opposite. There's a



9

great deal of evidence to show that this population in many ways
has been discriminated against.


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