A District Court Judge in Des Moines has ruled that providing voter registration forms in other languages violates Iowa’s English Only law.
The ruling by District Judge Douglas Staskal is a victory for Iowa Congressman Steve King, who while serving the state legislature, authored the law back in 1992 requiring all Iowa official government documents to be in English.
King and others went to court in 2006 claiming then Secretary of State and current governor, Chet Culver, was violating the law by providing voter registration forms in Spanish, Bosnian, Vietnamese and Laotian. The Secretary of State had argued that the forms were a valid exception to the law. Attorney General Tom Miller issued a statement saying he would be consulting with the secretary of state and others to decide whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Governor Culver recommended letting the judicial process work itself out. The Advocacy group U.S. English applauded the ruling and called the case the first legal test of official English language legislation this decade.
King says,"That decision in the district court upheld our side of this totally, and…it’s one of those times when you go to court and actually get justice."
Critics says preventing the use of voter registration forms in other languages will keep some people from being able to vote. King, a Republican, says that argument is laughable. "There are only two ways by which you can qualify to vote, and that is be a natural born citizen or a naturalized citizen ," King says "A naturalized citizen has to demonstrate improved proficiency in both the spoken and written English language, and also understand our history and essentially take a patriotism test. So if you are a naturalized citizen, you have no argument or claim to anything other than an English only ballot."
King says natural born citizens should know enough English to read a ballot. King says if you are born in America and can’t read English, then you can only argue that you grew up in a language enclave and didn’t learn enough English. "If that’s the case," King says, "do we really want people who aren’t any more tuned into the culture of America to be selecting the next leader of the free world? I say, take some responsibility, 18 years, you should learn a little English."
King says the immigration debate continues to be a hot issue. He says it’s an intense issue in Iowa and in the rest of the country. King says he constantly gets asked by people on the coasts why Iowa cares about immigration, and King says part of it is because of our experience with it in the food processing industry. King says Iowa also has an intense belief in "the rule of law" and when we ignore the rule of law, our society eventually breaks down. King represents the Fifth Congressional district which covers western Iowa.