All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Voter Information in Foreign Languages
It appears that the hate-filled Arkansas Times is all over Secretary of State Elect Mark Martin for his reply to State Representative Donna Hutchinson (both Republicans) that he intended to "take care of" the state printing voter information in Spanish. In the context of the exchange, Martin signals an intention investigate what he can do to end the practice.
While filled with hate, it does not mean that the Ark Times is wrong about everything. Martin is likely to find out that there is not much he can do, without falling afoul of increasingly intrusive federal law. The Ark Times notes that there is a provision in the so-called "Voter Rights Act" that mandates materials be provided in "minority languages."
To whit, section 203 says that when the state "[P]rovides registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials of information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language."
The Ark Times may be correct in its assessment about what the Federal Law dictates, but for me the real question is the justice, wisdom, and even the coherency, of the federal law itself. It is not Martin's desires that should be under scrutiny here, but rather the wisdom of the policy.
This is an unfunded federal mandate on the states. Should voters be taxed to provide forms in every tongue in the land, or do those who wish to exercise their rights also have the responsibility of learning the dominant language of the land before they exercise that right? And will providing this information in other languages cause even more illegal aliens to fraudulently participate in the election process? Does it send a signal that the system is going to once again turn a blind eye to crime as long as its a crime of immigration?
I think its another example of a beltway gone mad enforcing its insanity on the citizens in the heartland. The policy undermines national unity, and even consistency. Ultimately, it undermines the rule of law. There is enough argument over what the rules are and how they should be interpreted when we are all talking the same language. Sometimes, translations don't convey thoughts accurately. The phrase "All of your base are belong to us" is an internet phenomenon which came from a poor translation from a video game.
So if we argue about the law and what the rules mean when we first agree on the language, how badly will we be divided once we are reading from twenty different rulebooks in twenty different languages? Will the Thai translation line up with the Hindi translation? What about the Spanish translation and the Ebonic? Will the same intent be conveyed?
The policy is an invitation for disaster. It's fifty lawsuits waiting to happen. It's a recipe for chaos. You can't have twenty different groups of people playing the same game with each other using rulebooks written in 20 different languages. Languages have inherent shortcomings in translation. And this is no game. These elections are what we use instead of bullets to determine who rules us. Once one segment or the other gets the idea that they have been cheated, it can get real ugly. It does anyway.
The discussion should be on the wisdom of this dictate from the insane people in the beltway, not any public official from our state's reluctance to kow tow to it.