1st Edition

The Battle Over Bilingual Ballots Language Minorities and Political Access Under the Voting Rights Act

By James Thomas Tucker Copyright 2009
    ISBN 9781138278493
    430 Pages
    Published November 16, 2016 by Routledge

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    ISBN 9780754675723
    430 Pages
    Published November 28, 2009 by Routledge

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    In recent years, few federal requirements have been as controversial as the mandate for what critics call 'bilingual ballots'. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 included a permanent requirement for language assistance for Puerto Rican voters educated in Spanish and ten years later Congress banned English-only elections in certain covered jurisdictions, expanding the support to include Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian-language voters and Spanish-language voters. Some commentators have condemned the language assistance provisions, underlying many of their attacks with anti-immigrant rhetoric. Although the provisions have been in effect for over three decades, until now no comprehensive study of them has been published. This book describes the evolution of the provisions, examining the evidence of educational and voting discrimination against language minorities covered by the Act. Additional chapters discuss the debate over the 2006 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, analysis of objections raised by opponents of bilingual ballots and some of the most controversial components of these requirements, including their constitutionality, cost and effectiveness. Featuring revealing case studies as well as analysis of key data, this volume makes a persuasive and much-needed case for bilingual ballots, presenting a thorough investigation of this significant and understudied area of election law and American political life.

    Contents: Preface; Part I Remedies for Language Minority Voters before 1975: Literacy test bans before 1975; Language assistance for voters before 1975. Part II The Language Assistance Amendments to the Voting Rights Act: Special protections for language minority voters since 1975; Language assistance and voter assistance since 1975. Part III The Need for Language Assistance and its Availability, Quality and Cost: The July 2002 determinations and Section 203 coverage; Implementation and cost of language assistance in covered jurisdictions. Part IV The Debate Over Reauthorization of the VRA's Language Assistance Provisions in 2006: Passage of the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Act of 2006; Debunking 10 myths about language assistance. Part V A Case Study of Discrimination: Alaska Natives: Discrimination against Alaska natives; Remedying language discrimination in the Bethel census area of Alaska. Part VI Commentaries and Appendices: Essays on language assistance under the VRA; Selected bibliography; Indexes.


    James Thomas Tucker is a voting rights attorney whose areas of expertise include race and redistricting, and language accessibility. He has worked with the Native American Rights Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice, and has published more than a dozen journal articles and book chapters on minority voting rights.

    'Tucker’s book--well-written and documented--is the most comprehensive treatment we have of the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act and what they mean for equal political participation. He recounts the discriminatory origins of English literacy tests in this country and debunks the myths that they were needed for voters to make informed decisions and to become assimilated. A must-read for those who care about voting rights.' Laughlin McDonald, Director, ACLU Voting Rights Project, USA 'James Tucker reminds us all of the vitality of the Voting Rights Act, which from its inception "had to anticipate other barriers resulting in disenfranchisement of minority voters." He then provides us with an excellent analysis of the history and evolving nature of the significance of language assistance in enabling citizens to exercise their right to vote.' United States Representative Charles A. Gonzalez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Civil Rights 'The Battle Over Bilingual Ballots is a tour de force. Tucker's detailed history and fine-grained empirical research into the achievements and shortcomings of the effort to enfranchise all citizens will be invaluable to scholars, lawyers, activists, and policymakers.' Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School, USA

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