Group Blasts 'Government Multilingualism Gone Amok'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - The tiny town of Briny Breezes, Fla., doesn't have any non-English speaking residents, so why should it be forced to print election notices in Spanish, critics are wondering.

According to the group U.S. English, "The era of forced multilingual ballots has hit a new low" in Briny Breezes.

Federal law required the small oceanfront community to provide bilingual election information to its residents -- even when there was no election to hold and no non-English speakers to be found, U.S. English added.

Under the Voting Rights Act, all towns in a county must print ballots in foreign languages when the number of foreign-language-speakers in that county rises above a certain level.

Two years ago, Palm Beach County was informed that more than five percent of its voters were Spanish-speaking, forcing each of the county's 37 municipalities - Briny Breezes included -- to print ballots in Spanish and provide bilingual poll workers.

"This is the epitome of government multilingualism gone amok," said U.S. English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica in a press release. "How many communities will have to throw away precious tax dollars to fund unnecessary multilingual services?"

U.S. English, pointing to census statistics, notes that Briny Breezes is home to 411, nearly 98 percent of whom are U.S. citizens and 99 percent of whom speak English "very well."

Nevertheless, the community was required to print a notice -- one side in English, the other in Spanish -- informing residents that an election would not be held because no one had challenged the incumbents.

"The use of multilingual ballots goes against common sense," said Mujica. "If we limit the right to vote to our citizens, and immigrants must pass English proficiency tests, why would a voter need a multilingual ballot?

"Furthermore, how can an individual who is unable to understand English cast an informed ballot? Perhaps this is why so many bilingual ballots are never used," he said.

Big cities such as Los Angeles and New York City spend millions of dollars to provide ballots in other languages, but Mujica argues that the money "could be far better spent providing English classes and other programs to help immigrants learn our common language."

\sb100\sa100 U.S. English describes itself as a citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States.

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