The Senate Judiciary Committee had hearings this morning on whether to renew Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that many jurisdictions print ballots in one or more foreign languages. The hearings went well, in part because the Senate—unlike the House—actually had a balanced panel (three witnesses today for extension, and three against), and because—again, unlike the House—almost as many Republicans as Democrats actually showed up to ask questions.
Another reason the hearings went well was that Ted Kennedy’s big attempt to dramatize the need for foreign-language ballots badly backfired. Kennedy had a staffer hold up a big poster that reproduced an incredibly long and convoluted Colorado state ballot initiative. The point was supposed to be that such language would be incomprehensible to someone who didn’t speak English really, really well. But of course the Republicans and conservative witnesses—who included the Center for Equal Opportunity’s Linda Chavez and NRO contributor Peter Kirsanow—all pointed out that even someone who DID speak English really, really well would not be able to make heads or tails of it. The third anti-203 witness—U.S. English’s Mauro Mujica—pointed out that translating such language would be essentially impossible; besides, he added, Chilean Spanish would be very different from Puerto Rican Spanish, so which should the government pick? So Section 203 is no solution, in addition to being balkanizing, expensive, a facilitator of voter fraud, and unconstitutional.