Iowa Attorney General appeals decision that would offer non-English voting materials to the public
DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - On Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird released a statement announcing her intentions to appeal a Polk County District Court decision, citing the protection of “election integrity.”
“We are appealing the District Court’s decision against the Secretary of State’s office to protect election integrity and defend state law. The Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act is clear; all official documents are to be written in English—including voter registration forms. We look forward to arguing our case in court to uphold the Act and secure the integrity of our elections,” said Iowa Attorney General Bird.
On June 29th, 2023 a Polk County judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit that challenged the state’s application of the English Language Reaffirmation Act to election materials. The English Language Reaffirmation Act requires that all political documents from the state “shall be in the English language” unless the materials are deemed “necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.” The act was originally signed into law over twenty years ago by Governor Tom Vilsack.
Polk County District Court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg cited the Voting Rights Act while ruling in favor of the change. In a statement given to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, he said:
“One would be hard-pressed to find a right that has been more frequently and unwaveringly praised in this nation than the right to vote. One’s ability to participate in the shared experience of democracy is dependent on effective communication, whether it be amongst voters or between the electorate and the state. Iowa itself has a long history of immigrants, including ones that do not speak English proficiently. In fact, the Constitutional Convention of the State of Iowa in 1857 contemplated such an issue given the large German population in the state at the time. The convention agreed to commission the translation of the Iowa Constitution into German and the printing of 3,000 copies for distribution among the state’s German immigrants.”
Iowa Democratic Representative Adam Zabner has pushed back against Attorney General Bird’s decision to appeal, calling it a “step backwards” for voting rights:
“The Attorney General’s decision to stand against the voting rights of Iowans is incredibly disappointing. Citizens in our state have a constitutional right to vote and as the son of immigrants from Venezuela, I understand that language can be a major barrier to exercising that right. Iowa’s English-only law brings back the painful specter of the literacy tests that for decades undermined the rights of American minorities to access their voting rights. The AG works for Iowans and her focus should be on protecting our rights, not working to take them away.”
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