Should English should be required at the polls?

Vote buttonOne of the big news networks ran a video earlier today that included a sign at a polling place — a multilingual sign. There were at least five different languages on the sign that said Vote Here.

That raised a question: Should English be required to vote in a U.S. election? This country embraces an open door, Melting Pot philosophy that welcomes legal immigrants and bends over backwards to help them assimilate. But if voters do not speak English well enough to vote at English-only polls, with English-only ballots or machines, should it be assumed they understand the process well enough to have the right to vote?

This is another facet of the English-required-for-citizenship discussion. Voting is a fundamental privilege of American citizenship and elections are the basis of our system of government. Shouldn’t a voter have to speak the language in order to participate? Or would you argue that plenty of English-speaking Americans are utterly clueless at the polls, so the question is moot?

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3 thoughts on “Should English should be required at the polls?

  1. I am basically Swiss, and I have never been to the US. In Switzerland there are four official languages, and until now everything has been working very well. But Switzerland is small. There are now only about five million people including about a million recent arrivals.

    Seen from afar like that I would think that all kids have to do English as the only official language at school, but when it comes to voting, I would try to let everybody in and print the information in as many languages as possible. I think that immigrants anyway tend not to vote. That is bad.

    Voting is not a ritual. A single vote does not matter except subjectively, in that people (I hope) later remeber that they were right or were really really wrong.

  2. Only yesterday did I discover the “my comments” tag on the WordPress dashboard. This comment was not included. What is your idea on that?

    I see from your sidebar that you are a political animal. I am not. I am so absolutely philosophical that in English language forums and in WordPress I have to hide it. — My things on the Greeks are decoys. I do not know anything about the Greeks, use them in an incessant attempt to “bootleg in” some Kant etc., as, let’s say, a born wildlife zoologist would speak about worms and sparrows if he lived in a gardener association. (some comparisons suck!)

    Nobody knows really what a language is and how it operates in the brain, whether as a motor or a product, but everybody could be made to see that it operates at a very deep level and cannot simply be prohibited or requested.

    I would hope anyone who votes has some understanding of the process and issues, however that understanding is acquired. Since English is by far the most dominant language in the U.S., it would be the primary source of information for voters.

    There is an ongoing controversy in the U.S. about English-only in schools. That approach, called English immersion, is the one I favor. But in some parts of the country, millions of dollars are spent to create bilingual (Spanish-English) education to accommodate immigrants. To me that makes no sense. They need to learn English as quickly as possible and bilingual schools only postpone that.

    (BTW, I love your philosophical leanings. Please don’t feel you have to hide them. They add depth and dimension!)


  3. Yes, I think you are right. That bilingual education does not make sense. (It also does not work for most kids.)

    However, I think you shortcut on how you get your political information. You say it is in English. That is so. But from where do you get it?

    I assume, since they are the fastest growing market, that immigrants have their own TV, and they watch it at home and more often than real thoroughbred Americans, they would watch it in the company of about 5 to 10 amigos.

    I cannot imagine how it might be in the country’s interest to exclude them as voters.


    I get information from lots of different sources, and try to listen with an open mind to all sides, if that’s what you are asking. Mainstream news sources are notoriously liberal here, for the most part, so I have to look a little harder to find more conservative opinions. My blogroll is still pretty short, but I tried to include a few sources from both ends of the spectrum. Real Clear Politics seems particularly good for summarizing polls and opinions from all sides.


... and that's my two cents