My latest OpEd reprises my continuing concerns about the uses and abuses of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This time, I focus on the minority language rights provisions that outlaw ‘English-only’ elections and permit New Americans to vote in the language of their former homelands.
Late last month, the city Board of Elections reported that it won’t manage to fulfill the federal requirement that it have ballots available in Bengali in Queens for Thursday’s primaries.
Without excusing yet another BoE misstep, it’s fair to ask: Why should it need Bengali ballots?
The board blamed its vendor, who had trouble with the Bengali script. And, naturally, an advocacy group is threatening to sue.
These voting-rights advocates sometimes seem like lawyers chasing ambulances in search of victims to represent: Everyone with an accent and a nonwhite complexion is a potential victim whose rights need protection.
This madness has to end.
New York is home to more than 3 million foreign-born residents from over 200 different nations and speaking countless languages. Roughly 20 percent of our neighbors — 1.5 million people — are naturalized US citizens.
Does naturalization come with automatic victimhood now?
The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed “English-only” elections — but the bilingual-ballot provisions were targeted at groups that had faced language discrimination and other voting barriers: American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaska natives and Spanish-heritage populations.
Puerto Ricans and Native Americans were made citizens — without being asked — by acts of Congress. So they’re legitimately owed language-rights protections as guaranteed under the equal-protection clause of the US Constitution.
But granting such protections to groups with no history of past discrimination here is unnecessary.
Should naturalized citizens benefit from minority language rights protections in voting, such as bilingual ballots?