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Help counties meet mandates

August 26, 2012
The Leader Herald

Sometimes, federal and state legislators seem to forget the consequences of the well-intentioned rules they are forcing on smaller municipalities.

As a case in point, look at the recent issue Montgomery County has dealt with regarding accommodating Spanish-speaking voters from Puerto Rico

The state attorney general's office recently sent letters to 10 upstate counties advising them to accommodate such voters as required by federal law.

The letters indicated the Voting Rights Act requires jurisdictions with significant numbers of Puerto Rican residents with limited English to ensure they can vote. Measures include making all voting materials and ballots available in Spanish and having Spanish-language interpreters available at polling places.

The law applies to citizens educated in American flag schools in Puerto Rico who are categorized as limited-English proficient.

The letters noted that counties without effective plans could face civil liability.

While it's important to make sure all legal voters can participate, this is another case of an unfunded mandate being passed down to the counties.

Why couldn't the state have come up with the funds to make sure these counties can comply with the law?

An election official with Montgomery County indicated the cost will not be significant for it.

However, that is no guarantee the nine other counties will have the same experience.

For generations, immigrants who did not speak English have found a way to legally vote. It seems to be a bit of an overreach to say these counties must accommodate these voters now or someone may become upset enough to file a lawsuit.

What if our area should experience an influx of immigrants who do not speak English? Should ballots be pre-emptively printed that include every language, just so we can be certain we are following the law?

We suggest the state allow the counties to send it a bill for compliance. While the amounts the counties pay may be small, the principle of the matter is important.

Taxpayers, whatever language they speak, will thank them.



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