LULAC sues to remove ‘English-only Law’ for voting materials in Iowa

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 10:39 AM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KWQC) - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s “English-only Law” on Wednesday, suing Iowa for failure to provide non-English election materials to voters with limited English proficiency.

The lawsuit focuses on the exception to the law passed in 2008, that allows translated materials if they are “necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.”

“The right to vote is clearly guaranteed by our state constitution, the U.S. Constitution and federal law,” explained Nick Salazar, LULAC Iowa State Director. “Congress has already determined that native-language voting materials are needed to secure voting rights for voters with limited English-language skills. Legally the English-only Law doesn’t apply to voting materials.”

Per Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, minorities with a history of exclusion from the voting process (more than 10,000 residents or over 5 percent of voting-age citizens) shall be provided with translations for their language.

LULAC Iowa filed a petition for a declaratory order to Iowa’s Secretary of State, Paul Pate, in July, asking for clarification on the ‘English-only Law’ with election material. Pate’s office said they are prohibited from using non-English voter registration forms but didn’t address whether the use of non-English language forms is necessary to “secure the right to vote.”

According to LULAC more than eight percent of Iowans predominantly speak languages other than English and the largest language minority is Spanish in Iowa.

“Iowa has over 50,000 citizens eligible to vote who predominantly speak Spanish. The English-only Law has been used as a vehicle to promote racism in Iowa,” said Joe Henry, Political Director for LULAC Iowa. “Those who voted for it and signed it into law should have known that it could be weaponized to attack our Latino and immigrant communities. Clearly, this was the intention of then legislator Steve King when he sued to end the practice of translating ballots and other voting materials.”

Iowa’s English-only Law was signed by former Governor Tom Vilsack in 2002.

LULAC’s lawsuit names Pate, the Iowa Voter Registration Commission, and 2008 auditor officials from four counties who joined former U.S. Representative Steve King as plaintiffs to challenge then Secretary of State Michael Mauro’s decision to keep providing voter materials in Spanish, Laotian, Bosnian, and Vietnamese.

For more information about LULAC’s battle on the ‘English-Only Law’ view past coverage here.

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