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Letter: GOP efforts to limit ballot access hinder democracy
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I read with interest Tom Smiley’s guest column defending his vote to block bilingual English-Spanish ballots in local elections. He calls a recent Times editorial “divisive and mean-spirited” for taking him to task for his vote. 

I’d suggest that description applies better to his vote to block bilingual ballots. It appears to be an extension of the Republican agenda to deny Hispanics a fair opportunity to vote. If a citizen is legally entitled to vote, there isn’t a good excuse to deny them an opportunity to read and understand ballot issues in a language they are most familiar with. 

The motion to scrap bilingual ballots was sponsored by Craig Lutz, a Republican member of the board. Ken Cochran, another Republican board member, suggested Spanish-language voters should bring interpreters into the voting booth with them. That sounds almost like a poll tax to me. 

Republicans have attempted to excuse their “English-only” agenda by pointing to increased financial costs when they have wasted much more money in other places to further their political agenda. It is ironic that the same conservative politicians who demand “English-only” ballots also tend to support the evangelical ministry of the church to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in hundreds of different languages. This double standard appears to be an example of conservative hypocrisy. 

Smiley attacks the Times for suggesting his vote may have been based on a presumption that Latinos tend to vote for Democrats, adding that exit polls are not a reliable measure of this. I think Smiley’s comment about exit poll reliability is utterly ridiculous.

Smiley tops off his tirade by suggesting The Times’ editorial lacks “integrity and honor” and was not written with an intention of “good faith.” My concept of integrity would hold that a decision to be proactive and establish bilingual ballots to better serve the community is more honorable and fair-minded than suggesting the board will only act when forced to do so by federal elections law. 

Currently there is nothing in the state constitution that supports denial of bilingual voting ballots, but republican state Sen. Josh McKoon has proposed a bill to do that. This reminds me of other conservative attempts to manipulate the outcome of elections, including gerrymandering voting districts, closure of rural voting precincts that primarily serve minorities, partisan purges of voter roles and implementing a “photo ID” requirement when there is no mathematical proof that voter fraud has ever come close to affecting the outcome of any federal or state election. 

It’s unfortunate that any political party would operate on a zero-sum philosophy. Policies which disenfranchise minority voters should not be viewed as a good thing by any political party. As Americans, we are strongest when we stand together. 

Agendas to undermine any part of the electorate are fundamentally opposed to the collective intent of the founders of this country and it’s representative system of government. We should all be bigger than that, and our politicians need to hear it loud and clear. 

Bruce Vandiver


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