Seeing the Round Corners

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 October 27, 2020

In a recent speech, President Trump made referenced to voting, asking if in order to vote, should a person have to be a citizen. That brought to mind the two columns from this writer’s archives for consideration by the reader.

DOES YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE HAVE AN IMPACT?                   April 11, 2016

As the 2016 Presidential campaign “sprints” toward the November election, informed Americans have finally been shown just what the words “party politics” mean. Also telling is just how meaningless and empty the words “majority rules” are when using the words in the context of politics.

After what Americans have observed this election cycle, ever stop to think just what controls our lives – “majority rules” should be followed by the words “based on the number of registered voters,” which benefits what? The political parties. The unregistered voter does not count. Super delegates mean the ultimate control by the party just for a bit of added insurance. The popular vote does not truly count because of the way the Electoral College is set up. For the term “majority rules” to be accurate in meaning, the entire population must be counted.

Now the reader sees just what party politics really mean! “Party politics” and “majority rules” warrant an in-depth column in the near future, perhaps around convention time. In the mean time, a column from this writer's archives on voting.

THE RIGHT TO VOTE                                                                 September 22, 2006

It seems appropriate, as the November election nears, to “visit” an Act passed more than 40 years ago. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the Act) would have expired in 2007, but it was recently renewed by the House in Washington, D. C., and sent on to the Senate. The new expiration date is 2032, but an attempt was made by some Republican Congressmen to limit the renewal to 10 years.

Two of Colorado’s Congressmen (Hefley and Tancredo) were in a group of 33 legislators who attempted to remove the requirement for Multilanguage ballots, and the additional provisions that apply to primarily Southern states with a history of racist voting “activities” and discrimination. Southern states make the case that is all history and should be forgotten. (“Requirement for Multilanguage ballots” will be the operative words for the purposes of this week’s column.)

Certain sections of the Act were extended in 1970, 1975 and 1982. During hearings on these extensions, testimony described “the ways in which voting electorates were manipulated through gerrymandering, annexations, adoptions of at-large elections, and other structural changes to prevent newly-registered black voters from effectively using the ballots.”

Under the Act, language assistance is offered in some jurisdictions to American Indians and Alaskan natives, but the case can be justified because they are American citizens – not immigrants who are supposed to meet the general requirements for becoming naturalized citizens.

Naturalization is the process “by which U. S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).” According to the INA, the general requirements for administrative naturalization include: “a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing; an ability to read, write and speak English; a knowledge and understanding of U. S. history and government; good moral character; attachment to the principles of the United States Constitution; and, favorable disposition toward the United States.”

Yes, as one of the general requirements, applicants for citizenship are required to have the ability to read, write, and speak English. With that being the case, why does the Voting Rights Act still have a requirement for Multilanguage ballots?

A voter who could not read, write and speak English may not have been a problem when the number of those voters was small, say in 1965 when the original Act was passed, but that is no longer the case. By some estimates, the number of illegal aliens in the United States is more than 12 million.

How does a person become a citizen if they cannot read, write and speak English?  The issue has now been raised by the gubernatorial candidates as to whether or not proof of citizenship should be required in order to vote.

Stories are legend as to why people want to come to the United States – whether it is to escape poverty, tyrannical government, whatever. Long ago, arriving immigrants were proud to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, to make a commitment to the United States. They were never asked to totally give up their country of origin identity, but neither should America become second to it, as is now happening.

With citizenship comes responsibilities. The American voter has the responsibility to prepare to vote in their country’s elections – it is part of their civic responsibility, but one taken all too lightly. The infamous “blue book” is now almost necessary reading before elections in America, especially when the ballot has the number of initiatives and issues it has this year here in Colorado. The “blue book” came about, no doubt, as a result of such long ballots, but also because the issues in this day and age have become far more complicated than they were in 1965. While ordinary citizens may question the need for the lengthy wording as seen on present day ballots, today’s complicated world requires complicated laws. That may be the only palatable answer.

Becoming a naturalized citizen means a person is entitled to vote. If the newly sworn in citizen cannot read, write and speak English proficiently enough to read a ballot, how did that person become a citizen? How can they vote intelligently? How are people getting past the general requirement to obtaining citizenship of “an ability to read, write and speak English?

And, then there is the issue of being able to vote without providing proof of citizenship. Certain areas of the United States have a larger illegal population than others. In Massachusetts, the illegal alien population was estimated at 150,000 in 2003, and in that State (the home of ultra-liberal Senator Ted Kennedy), Republican Mitt Romney won over his Democratic opponent by only 107,000 votes.

It is not difficult to see how easily an election can be influenced by a massive voter registration of such a segment of the population as was done in the 2000 California election. In that election, thousands of immigrants with pending citizenship requests were given special identification cards to “help voting go more smoothly.”

The question comes to mind:  Was the intent of the United States Congress in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to weaken the voice of the people – the citizens of America – by including and continuing to include requirement for Multilanguage ballots? WORDS FAIL ME!

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me doris@dorisbeaver.com. The mission of Seeing the Round Corners is to evoke a thought process and interest in becoming better informed and to be skeptical of the headline-grabbing purveyors of information. The writer is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.