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U.S. English sues to protect Iowa’s official English law

Secretary of State cited for providing multilingual materials in violation of code

January 10, 2007
U.S. English today joined with seven plaintiffs in advancing a lawsuit against Governor-elect and current Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver and incoming Secretary of State Michael Mauro for violating the state’s official English law. The suit, filed in Iowa state district court, is rooted in the Secretary of State’s ongoing provision of voter registration materials in languages other than English. Currently, individuals can find voter registration forms in Spanish, Vietnamese, Laotian and Bosnian on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

“The Secretary of State does not have the right to ignore the law passed by the legislature,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of the Board of U.S. English, Inc. “Five years ago, Iowa’s elected officials listened to the call of the people and made English the official language of the state. Their hope was to create a government which recognized the common bond of English and emphasized English learning. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State’s office has chosen to ignore this law, opting instead to provide multilingual services to selected language groups.”

In 2002, the Iowa legislature passed a measure to make English the official language of the state by wide, bipartisan margins. The legislation was later signed into law by then-Governor Tom Vilsack. As enacted, the bill makes English the official language of all government business, with numerous specific exceptions for areas such as public health, criminal defense, trade, and tourism.

“The provision of voter registration forms in languages other than English is not among the exceptions listed in the Iowa official English law,” added Mujica. “This careless use of taxpayer dollars not only defies the importance of these exceptions, it defies common sense. Given that most individuals have to prove English proficiency to become citizens, and only citizens can vote, there is no need to print voter registration forms in languages other than English.

“If providing multilingual voter registration materials was truly about Constitutional rights, then the Secretary of State would make these forms available in all 104 languages spoken in Iowa, instead of pandering to a specific few. I hope the Secretary of State recognizes his error in violating a law which is supported by more than 75 percent of Iowa’s residents, and I look forward to the Iowa court enforcing the language of the law.”


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