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104th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 2d Session                                                     104-728
_______________________________________________________________________


 
            BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS REPEAL ACT OF 1996

                                _______
                                

 July 31, 1996.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Canady, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 351]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 351) to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to eliminate 
certain provisions relating to bilingual voting requirements, 
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     1
Background and Need for the Legislation..........................     1
Hearings.........................................................     8
Committee Consideration..........................................     8
Vote of the Committee............................................     9
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     9
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings............     9
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................     9
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................     9
Inflationary Impact Statement....................................    11
Section-by-Section Analysis and Discussion.......................    11
Agency Views.....................................................    11
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............    13
Dissenting Views.................................................    23

    The amendment is as follows:
    Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu 
thereof the following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal 
Act of 1996''.

SEC. 2. REPEAL OF BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS.

  (a) Bilingual Election Requirements.--Section 203 of the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a) is repealed.
  (b) Voting Rights.--Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 
U.S.C. 1973b) is amended by striking subsection (f).

SEC. 3. CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.

  (a) References to Section 203.--The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 
U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended--
          (1) in section 204, by striking ``or 203,''; and
          (2) in section 205, by striking ``, 202, or 203'' and 
        inserting ``or 202''.
  (b) References to Section 4.-- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 
U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended--
          (1) in sections 2(a), 3(a), 3(b), 3(c), 4(d), 5, 6, and 13, 
        by striking ``, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth 
        in section 4(f)(2)'';
          (2) in paragraphs (1)(A) and (3) of section 4(a), by striking 
        ``or (in the case of a State or subdivision seeking a 
        declaratory judgment under the second sentence of this 
        subsection) in contravention of the guarantees of subsection 
        (f)(2)'';
          (3) in paragraph (1)(B) of section 4(a), by striking ``or (in 
        the case of a State or subdivision seeking a declaratory 
        judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) that 
        denials or abridgments of the right to vote in contravention of 
        the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred anywhere in 
        the territory of such State or subdivision''; and
          (4) in paragraph (5) of section 4(a), by striking ``or (in 
        the case of a State or subdivision which sought a declaratory 
        judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) that 
        denials or abridgments of the right to vote in contravention of 
        the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred anywhere in 
        the territory of such State or subdivision''.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 351, the Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act of 
1996, repeals Sections 4(f) and 203, the bilingual voting 
requirements, from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the ``Act''). 
With the repeal of Sections 4(f) and 203, the Federal 
Government will no longer be in the business of mandating that 
certain jurisdictions provide ballots and other election 
materials in foreign languages.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was primarily designed to 
provide swift, administrative relief where there was compelling 
evidence that racial discrimination continued to plague the 
electoral process, thereby denying black Americans the right to 
exercise their franchise as guaranteed by the Fifteenth 
Amendment to the Constitution. The Act was amended in 1975 to 
require multi-lingual ballots and other election materials in 
jurisdictions where a combination of the following three 
factors existed: English deficiency, illiteracy and low voter 
turnout. This expansion of the Act added two new sections: the 
administrative preclearance provisions of title I, section 4, 
and the supplemental provisions of title II, section 203.
    The 1975 amendments were based on findings 1 which 
have been attacked as unsupported by the record of hearings 
conducted by the Committee. The underlying premise for this 
expansion of the law was that it was somehow discriminatory to 
conduct an election in the English language. When the ballots 
were last authorized in 1992, after 17 years of use, no 
statistical evidence was produced to show that bilingual 
ballots had increased voter participation by language 
minorities in any covered jurisdiction.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ 42 U.S.C. 1973b(f)(1) states that ``The Congress finds that 
voting discrimination against citizens of language minorities is 
pervasive and national in scope. Such minority citizens are from 
environments in which the dominant language is other than English. In 
addition they have been denied equal educational opportunities by State 
and local governments, resulting in severe disabilities and continuing 
illiteracy in the English language. The Congress further finds that, 
where State and local officials conduct elections only in English, 
language minority citizens are excluded from participating in the 
electoral process. In many areas of the country, this exclusion is 
aggravated by acts of physical, economic, and political intimidation.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I. There Is No Evidence of Discrimination in Voting To Justify 
                     Continued Federal Intervention

    At the time the law was enacted in 1975, several 
representatives expressed the view that expansion of the Act to 
cover some groups who speak languages other than English 
provided ``a remedy for which there is no wrong.'' ``More 
accurately'' they wrote, ``the bill applies the strongest 
remedies of the Voting Rights Act to jurisdictions whose record 
of voting discrimination is, in general, still waiting to be 
proved.'' 2
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ H. Rept. No. 196, 94th Congress, 1st Sess. 119 (1975). 
Dissenting views of Representatives Robert McClory, Hamilton Fish, Jr., 
Edward Hutchinson, Charles E. Wiggins, Carlos J. Moorhead, and Henry J. 
Hyde.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The expansion of the Act in 1975 went far beyond the 
original concept of the 1965 Act, or the concept envisioned 
when the Voting Rights Act was given a five-year extension in 
1970. The 1975 amendments aimed to protect ``language 
minorities.'' But ``coverage'' under the Voting Rights Act does 
not deal with the rights of the individual voter but with the 
remedies imposed against governments that discriminate in 
voting. What the Voting Rights Act addresses in its pertinent 
provisions is the imposition of remedies for violations of 
those rights--violations which Congress must find to have 
occurred in fact.
    Although the argument was made in 1975, the case was not. 
The record simply did not support the expansion of coverage to 
include the additional jurisdictions contemplated by the 
multilingual provisions of the bill. Rep. Jack Brooks, the 
former chairman of this Committee, wrote separately in 1975 to 
underscore the fact that ``Congress, and especially the 
Judiciary Committee, should enact far-reaching constitutional 
legislation only when it is supported with solid evidence. To 
date, I question whether adequate evidence exists.'' Rep. 
Brooks also noted that Arthur Fleming, Chairman of the U.S. 
Commission on Civil Rights informed the House Judiciary 
Subcommittee that the Commission lacked conclusive evidence of 
minority language discrimination in the electoral 
process.3
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ H. Rept. No. 196, 94th Congress, 1st Sess. 66-67 (1975).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Also voicing skepticism about the need for the bilingual 
provisions in his testimony before the House subcommittee, 
Assistant Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger stated:

          If we are put to the task of supporting with the same 
        degree of statistical and anecdotal information as was 
        existing in the past two enactments of the Civil Rights 
        Act, the same kind of support here * * * we do not yet 
        have that.4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ Extension of the Voting Rights Act: Hearings Before the 
Subcomm. on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Comm. on the 
Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 294 (1975) (testimony of Assistant 
Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger).

    Speaking before the Senate subcommittee six weeks later, 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pottinger declared:

          In my testimony before the House Subcommittee, I 
        suggested that if a strong case were made of widespread 
        deprivations of the right to vote of non-English-
        speaking persons * * * expansion of the special 
        provisions of the act might be warranted * * *. Since 
        that time, considerable testimony had been presented to 
        this subcommittee and to the House subcommittee * * *. 
        In light of the other remedies available and in light 
        of the stringent nature of the special provisions, the 
        Department of Justice has concluded that the evidence 
        does not require expansion based on the record 
        currently before us. In other words, that record is not 
        compelling.5
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Extension of the Voting Rights Act: Hearings Before the 
Subcomm. on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 
94th Cong., 1st Sess. 543-544 (1975) (testimony of Assistant Attorney 
General J. Stanley Pottinger) (emphasis added).

    Moreover, Mr. Pottinger highlighted the existing remedies 
available under the Act for language minorities. Before the Act 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
was amended in 1975, section 2 provided that:

          No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or 
        standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or 
        applied by any State or political subdivision to deny 
        or abridge the right of any citizen of the United 
        States to vote on account of race or color.

    Section 3 of the Act directs the Attorney General to 
institute legal actions to enforce section 2 of the Act. Under 
sections 11 and 12 of the Act, any official found to have 
deprived anyone of their voting rights can be fined or 
imprisoned.6 In his testimony before the House Judiciary 
Subcommittee, Pottinger expressed the view that such provisions 
of the Voting Rights Act already applied to minority language 
persons.7
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ 42 U.S.C. 1973i, 42 U.S.C. 1973j.
    \7\ Extension of the Voting Rights Act: Hearings Before the 
Subcomm. on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Comm. on the 
Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 178-179 (1975) (testimony of Assistant 
Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             II. Federalism

     One thing that proponents and opponents of the Voting 
Rights Act could agree on in 1965--it was a radical statute. In 
1965, when Congress first passed the Voting Rights Act, the 
record of hardcore voting discrimination in the jurisdictions 
covered by the legislation was so pervasive that Congress was 
justified in banning literacy tests and devices and in 
requiring that any and all changes in voting laws and practices 
in the affected areas be cleared in Washington, D.C. before 
they could go into effect. The remedies in the 1965 Act were 
imposed automatically by a ``trigger'' based upon 
discrimination borne out by statistical information and 
voluminous other evidence.

A. The multilingual mandate is based on an arbitrary, mechanical 
        formula

    To address the findings made by the Committee in 1975, 
Congress enacted a prohibition on conducting elections only in 
the English language in covered jurisdictions under the Act. 
Two mechanical formulas transformed certain states, counties 
and parishes into covered jurisdictions under the ``language 
minority'' provisions of the Act. However, as discussed below, 
these formulas indicate a certain antipathy toward actual 
discrimination in voting among many Americans who the Act 
purportedly seeks to protect.
    Only individuals who are American Indian, Asian American, 
Alaskan Natives, or of Spanish heritage and who number more 
than 10,000 or five percent of the population in a political 
subdivision (a county, a parish, or an Indian tribe without 
respect to county lines) derive the alleged benefits of the 
multi-lingual voting provisions of the Act. Therefore, ethnic 
groups covered under the Act must live sufficiently clustered 
in political subdivisions to be entitled to the Act's language 
minority provisions. Under these formulas, unless the voting 
age population level of a designated ``language minority'' 
group approaches the arbitrary five percent threshold outlined 
in section 4(f)(3) or in section 203(b), they do not acquire 
the guarantees that the Act prescribes.
    The 1990 Census lists 327 different languages now spoken in 
the United States. There is no principled basis for the 
provision of multi-lingual ballots to only four enumerated 
language minority groups. The hearings on this issue in 1975, 
on which the findings for the ``language minority'' provisions 
were based, focused primarily on Mexican-Americans in several 
counties in Texas.8 Asian Americans were scarcely 
mentioned at the hearings. But when legislation was introduced 
containing the new language minority provisions, apparently 
only 4 language groups had been subject to voting 
discrimination that was ``pervasive and national in scope.'' 
However, one should note that--

    \8\ See, Extension of the Voting Rights Act: Hearings Before the 
Subcomm. on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Comm. on the 
Judiciary, 94th Cong.,1st Sess. (1975).

          [W]e should be clear that even though access to 
        bilingual ballots is mandated * * *, this access is not 
        a right. If it were a right, it would be possessed by 
        all citizens. The Act makes no attempt to provide this 
        access to all members of linguistic minorities; access 
        is mandated only for minorities that number more than 
        10,000 in a jurisdiction, or which make up more than 5% 
        of the eligible voters. The thousands of citizens in 
        smaller linguistic minorities--all equally Americans--
        are not denied a right; they are denied an 
        accommodation. If they were denied a right, they would 
        be entitled to redress under the equal protection 
        clause of the 14th Amendment. And voting in the United 
        States would suddenly become an impossibly expensive 
        and chaotic exercise as officials attempted to provide 
        ballots and instructions in hundreds of different 
        languages, some of them not yet reduced to writing. 
        That is what a right to bilingual ballots would 
        require. 9
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act of 1996: Hearings 
Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the 
Judiciary, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. (1996) (testimony of Boston University 
President John Silber).

B. The multilingual mandate is both ineffective and expensive

            1. Effectiveness
    The only objective and reliable data available to measure 
voter registration and participation on a nationwide basis is 
found in the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population 
Reports.10 The Current Population Reports show that 
Hispanic citizen voter registration has decreased since the 
inception of multilingual ballots and other election materials. 
Using the last presidential election year before the 
multilingual provisions were added to the Act as a baseline, 
the 1972 voting registration rate of persons of Hispanic origin 
was 44.4 percent. In 1992, the number had declined to 35.0 
percent. In addition to the fact that Hispanic voter 
registration has not improved, Hispanic voter participation has 
also declined since the multilingual provisions have been in 
effect. In 1972, 37.5 percent of persons of Hispanic origin 
were reported voting. In 1992, only 28.9 percent were reported 
voting.11
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ The decennial census does not record information about whether 
a person has voted or is registered to vote. The Current Population 
Reports are ongoing, monthly surveys of 55,000 households. Every two 
years, questions are included about voting.
    \11\ Current Population Reports: 1992. Population Characteristics. 
Voting and Registration Statistics in the Election of November 1992. 
Series P-20, Nos. 174, 228, 293, 344, 383, 414, 440.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The data from the Current Population Reports is the only 
objective information that exists that shows evidence of the 
effectiveness--or lack thereof--of the multilingual voting 
assistance provisions of Sections 4(f) and 203. There is no 
evidence which shows that twenty-one years of multilingual 
voting assistance has increased registration or voting by 
language minorities. The lack of evidence of effectiveness is 
especially striking in contrast to the record in 1975 when 
Congress was considering reauthorization of the original non-
language provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

          The Voting Rights Act has been extremely effective in 
        terms of diminishing barriers to and improving minority 
        voting registration throughout the covered areas. 
        Registration rates for blacks in covered southern 
        jurisdictions has continued to increase since passage 
        of the Act. For example, while only 6.7 percent of the 
        black voting age population of Mississippi was 
        registered before 1965, 63.2 percent of such persons 
        were registered in 1971-72. Similar dramatic measures 
        in black registration can be observed in Alabama, 
        Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia. Severe gaps between 
        black and white registration rates have also greatly 
        diminished since the Act's passage. Prior to 1965, the 
        black registration rate in the State of Alabama lagged 
        behind that of whites by 49.9 percentage points. In 
        1972, that disparity had decreased to 23.6 percentage 
        points. Likewise in Mississippi, that disparity had 
        decreased from 63.2 percentage points * * * Closing 
        registration gaps have occurred throughout the covered 
        southern jurisdictions.12
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\ Extension of the Voting Rights Act: Hearings Before the 
Subcomm. on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 
94th Cong., 1st Sess. 779 (1975).

            2. Cost
    In addition to being ineffective, the multilingual mandate 
is expensive. There are no current nationwide statistics on the 
cost and use of multilingual election materials and ballots and 
no evidence was presented to the Subcommittee to indicate that 
the cost of material is justified by widespread use. The 
Subcommittee did hear compelling testimony however from the 
Registrar of Yuba County, California, who stated that in the 
last three elections (which include the 1996 primary election, 
the 1994 general election, and the 1994 primary election), her 
office spent $46,204.00 on translations and multilingual 
election materials. Despite the fact that Yuba County is a 
covered jurisdiction under section 4(f) of the Act and has had 
only 1 request in the last 16 years, Yuba County remains a 
covered jurisdiction under the Act. County Registrar Frances 
Fairey testified how this figure was wasteful and ineffective 
to her county:

          I have been Registrar for sixteen years and only once 
        has my office staff handed Spanish literature to 
        anyone. Let me restate that again; in my sixteen years 
        as Registrar I have received only this one request. 
        This was offered to, not requested by the individual. 
        The only other requests came from teachers who use this 
        material in their classes.13
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\ Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act of 1996: Hearings 
Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the 
Judiciary, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. (1996) (testimony of Frances Fairey, 
Clerk, Recorder, and Registrar of Voters for Yuba County, CA).

    Another example of the expense and ineffectiveness of the 
multilingual mandate is the experience of Los Angeles County, 
California. In the 1994 general election, Los Angeles County 
had to provide ballots and other election materials in six 
different languages--Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, 
Spanish and English. The additional cost to the County of 
providing ballots and election materials in these five foreign 
languages was $345,477.19, at an average cost per voter of 
$21.27.14 The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 
passage of H.R. 351 will result in savings of $5-10 million per 
election for covered state and local governments.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\ Offices of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk 
(Election Information Section).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             iii. findings

    Based on evidence presented to the Subcommittee it is clear 
that the findings made in 1975 are no longer an accurate 
reflection of reality. When the ``language minority'' 
provisions were last authorized in 1992 after 17 years of use, 
no statistical evidence was produced to show that the bilingual 
ballots had increased voter participation by language 
minorities in any covered jurisdiction. Furthermore, no 
incidents of actual discrimination were cited in relation to 
the expansion and reauthorization of the bilingual voting 
requirements in 1992 and no such incidents were presented in 
1996 to justify continuance of the multilingual provisions.

A. The Harmful Effects of Federally Mandated Multilingualism

    American society has developed on the ``melting pot'' 
theory--that is, that the whole of America is a nation of 
immigrants, and that each of us, or our forefathers, have been 
required to learn English in order to succeed. Every American 
values his or her heritage, but that is coupled with a 
recognition that as Americans, we must acquire a facility in 
English if we are to assimilate effectively and fully 
participate in all facets of American life. The 1975 amendments 
have the effect, whether intended or not, of encouraging 
minority language dependency and therefore self-imposed 
segregation, both politically and culturally.
    English is our common language of discourse. In recognition 
of this fact, now, more than ever, the Federal Government has a 
responsibility to look for things to bring us together as a 
nation and unify us rather than encourage further separation 
along racial and ethnic lines. Ballots are the recognized, 
endorsed, formalized, authoritative, approved instrument for 
citizen participation in the electoral process. The ballot's 
highly official nature gives great weight to all that is 
written on it. Present this information in English, and the 
message is unmistakable that English is the language in which 
this nation functions. Ballots in English do not reflect on the 
language each one of us may choose to speak in our homes or in 
our churches, but it is the language in which all Americans 
periodically make decisions that affect the future of the whole 
nation.
    A ballot in two or more languages delivers a very different 
message. Such a ballot gives an official seal of approval to 
other languages as co-equal to English in the process that 
determines the future course for our nation. It says that the 
highest authorities in the land place no special value on the 
English language for the most symbolic act of democratic self-
governance.

                                Hearings

    The Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution held one 
day of hearings on H.R. 351 on April 18, 1996. Testimony was 
received from 12 witnesses: Representative John Edward Porter; 
Representative Bob Livingston; Representative Xavier Becerra; 
Representative Nydia Velazquez; Representative Peter King; Dr. 
John Silber, President, Boston University; Karen Narasaki, 
Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Legal 
Consortium; Ronald Rotunda, the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor 
of Law, University of Illinois; Hon. Deval Patrick, Asst. 
Attorney General for Civil Rights, Department of Justice; Linda 
Chavez, President, Center for Equal Opportunity; Antonia 
Hernandez, President and General Counsel, Mexican American 
Legal Defense & Education Fund; Frances Fairey, County Clerk 
and Recorder, Yuba County, California.

                        Committee Consideration

    On May 23, 1996, the Subcommittee on the Constitution met 
in open session and ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 
351, with a single amendment in the nature of a substitute, by 
a recorded vote of 5 to 2, a quorum being present.
    On July 16, 1996, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 351, with a single 
amendment in the nature of a substitute, by a recorded vote of 
17 to 12, a quorum being present.

                         Vote of the Committee

    A motion to report favorably the bill, H.R. 351, as 
amended, was agreed to by a rollcall vote of 17 to 12. The vote 
was as follows:
        AYES                          NAYS
Mr. Hyde                            Mr. Schiff
Mr. Moorhead                        Mr. Conyers
Mr. Sensenbrenner                   Mr. Frank
Mr. McCollum                        Mr. Schumer
Mr. Gekas                           Mr. Bryant (TX)
Mr. Coble                           Mr. Reed
Mr. Smith (TX)                      Mr. Scott
Mr. Canady                          Mr. Watt
Mr. Goodlatte                        Mr. Becerra
 Mr. Buyer                          Ms. Lofgren
 Mr. Hoke                           Ms. Jackson Lee
 Mr. Bono                           Ms. Waters
 Mr. Heineman
 Mr. Bryant (TN)
 Mr. Chabot
 Mr. Flanagan
 Mr. Barr

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee reports 
that the findings and recommendations of the Committee, based 
on oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

         Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings

    No findings or recommendations of the Committee on 
Government Reform and Oversight were received as referred to in 
clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

               New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures

    Clause 2(l)(3)(B) of House rule XI is inapplicable because 
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or 
increased tax expenditures.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

     In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(C) of rule XI of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets 
forth, with respect to the bill, H.R. 351, the following 
estimate and comparison prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 29, 1996.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
reviewed H.R. 351, the Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act 
of 1996, as ordered reported by the House Committee on the 
Judiciary on July 16, 1996. CBO estimates that enacting this 
legislation would have no significant impact on the federal 
budget. Enacting H.R. 351 would not affect direct spending or 
receipts. Therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply 
to the bill.
    H.R. 351 would amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Public 
Law 89-110) to repeal the requirement that certain 
jurisdictions provide bilingual voting materials.
    Federal budgetary impact.--Under current law, the 
Department of Justice enforces the provisions of the Voting 
Rights Act, and the Census Bureau determines which 
jurisdictions should provide bilingual voting materials. 
Enacting H.R. 351 would not significantly affect spending by 
these agencies.
    Impact on State, local, and tribal governments.--H.R. 351 
contains no intergovernmental mandates as defined in the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-4). By 
rescinding bilingual election requirements, the bill would, in 
general, save state, local, and tribal governments money. Some 
states--New Mexico, for example--would continue to provide 
bilingual materials and education because of state or local 
constitutional or statutory requirements. In those cases, H.R. 
351 would have no budgetary effect. In other cases--such as 
counties in rural South Dakota with large Native American 
populations--volunteers provide translator assistance for oral 
language communities, and those services cost local governments 
nothing. Some large jurisdictions, however, incur substantial 
costs when they have to hire translators and print 
informational material and ballots in a number of different 
languages. This is particularly the case in southern California 
and New York.
    Total costs of complying with current law range from 
minimal in small jurisdictions to over $250,000 in the nation's 
largest counties with large non-English speaking populations. 
Over 250 jurisdictions are subject to the bilingual 
requirements, but most of these jurisdictions are relatively 
small. CBO estimates that state and local jurisdictions, in 
total, could save between $5 million and $10 million per 
election if H.R. 351 became law.
    Impact on the private sector.--This bill would impose no 
new private-sector mandates as defined in Public Law 104-4.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Mark 
Grabowicz (for federal costs), Leo Lex (for the state, local, 
and tribal government impact), and Matthew Eyles (for the 
private-sector impact).
            Sincerely,
                                         June E. O'Neill, Director.

                     Inflationary Impact Statement

    Pursuant to clause 2(l)(4) of rule XI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee estimates that H.R. 351 
will have no significant inflationary impact on prices and 
costs in the national economy.

               Section-by-Section Analysis and Discussion

Section 1. Short title

    This section provides that this Act may be cited as the 
``Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act of 1996''.

Section 2. Repeal of bilingual voting requirements

    Section 2 of the Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act 
of 1996 would repeal section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 
1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a) and section 4(f) of the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973b(f)).
    Both sections assume for purposes of the Act that covered 
jurisdictions are engaged in discrimination against language 
minorities to such an extent that the Federal Government must 
interject itself to regulate an election process traditionally 
reserved to the States in order to remedy the discrimination. 
Both sections mandate that covered jurisdictions provide 
ballots and other election materials in languages other than 
English. Moreover, jurisdictions subject to section 4(f) are 
subject to the preclearance provisions under section 5 of the 
Act.

Section 3. Conforming amendments

    Section 3 of the Bilingual Voting Requirements Repeal Act 
of 1996 would make conforming amendments to all sections of the 
Act that reference sections 203 and 4(f) by deleting all such 
references.

                              Agency Views

    The views of the Department of Justice are set forth in the 
following letter.
                        U.S. Department of Justice,
                             Office of Legislative Affairs,
                                     Washington, DC, June 11, 1996.
Hon. Henry Hyde,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: This letter presents the views of the 
Justice Department on H.R. 351, which would repeal the minority 
language provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This 
letter follows the Department's earlier letter to Chairman 
Canady of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and testimony 
before the Subcommittee by Assistant Attorney General Deval L. 
Patrick. Both of these documents are enclosed for your review.
    We strongly oppose the repeal of these important provisions 
of the Voting Rights Act. For over two decades, these 
provisions have guaranteed the right to vote of United States 
citizens who are not yet fully proficient in English. If a 
repeal bill were sent to the President, the Attorney General 
would recommend that he veto such legislation.
    Congress added the minority language provisions to the 
Voting Rights Act in 1975, recognizing that large numbers of 
United States citizens who primarily spoke languages other than 
English had been effectively excluded from participation in our 
electoral process. Congress made specific findings that voting 
discrimination against citizens of language minorities is 
pervasive and national in scope, and that these citizens were 
denied equal educational opportunities by State and local 
governments, resulting in severe disabilities and continuing 
illiteracy in the English language. Therefore, the rationale 
for the minority language provisions was, in part, identical to 
that for removing obstructions at the polls for illiterate 
African American citizens: Congress recognized that the 
inability to read and understand voting instructions and 
ballots should not be a bar to the constitutional right to 
vote, whether the discrimination that had contributed to that 
illiteracy was based on race, national origin, or language 
proficiency.
    The repeal of the minority language protections of the 
Voting Rights Act would disenfranchise American citizens who 
only recently have had the opportunity to engage meaningfully 
in participatory democracy. The minority language provisions 
were passed to help American citizens, who work and pay taxes, 
but have not mastered English well and need some assistance to 
be able to cast an informed vote. The minority language 
provisions enable these voters to know not only who is running 
for office, but also to understand complex constitutional 
amendments or bond issues that appear on the ballot and have 
just as profound an effect on their lives as the individuals 
elected to office. The minority language provisions increase 
the number of registered voters and permit voters to 
participate on an informed basis.
    The stated purpose of H.R. 351 is to eliminate the 
bilingual election provisions in the Voting Rights Act. Those 
provisions are found in section 203 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a) and 
section 4(f)(4) (42 U.S.C. 1973b(4)(f)(4)) of the Act. However, 
in the process of eliminating those provisions, H.R. 351 would 
repeal section 4(f) in its entirety, including section 4(f)(2). 
The bill would remove all references to section 4(f)(2) 
throughout the Voting Rights Act. By applying such a broad 
brush, the bill would have other detrimental consequences as 
well, since it would call into question the applicability of 
the protections of the Voting Rights Act to members of language 
minority groups (defined as ``persons who are American Indian, 
Asian American, Alaskan Native or of Spanish heritage,'' (42 
U.S.C. 19731(c)(3)). For example:
          1. By eliminating both section 4(f)(2) and the 
        reference to it in section 2(a) of the Act (42 U.S.C. 
        1973(a)), H.R. 351 appears to eliminate entirely the 
        nationwide ban on discriminatory election practices 
        against members of language minority groups. This could 
        prevent members of language minority groups from being 
        able to challenge vote dilution, such as that found 
        unlawful by the court in Gomez v. City of Watsonville, 
        863 F. 2d 1407 (9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 
        1080 (1989) (successful challenge by Hispanics to city 
        at-large election system). More fundamentally, H.R. 351 
        would call into question the legal right of members of 
        language minorities, such as Hispanic-Americans and 
        Asian-Americans, to challenge such blatantly harmful 
        election practices as limiting the voter registration 
        of only language minority citizens to one day a week or 
        limiting only their balloting to the hours of 10:00 
        a.m.-12:00 noon.
          2. H.R. 351 also would raise a host of questions 
        about the coverage under section 5 of the Act (42 
        U.S.C. 1973c) of jurisdictions that became covered as a 
        result of the 1975 amendments to the Act. Those 
        amendments created the coverage formula found in the 
        third sentence of section 4(b) (42 U.S.C. 1973b(b)). It 
        is unclear whether a jurisdiction that has been covered 
        since 1975--because it met the section 4(b) criteria--
        would remain covered until it could ``bail out,'' using 
        the provisions of Section 4(a) (42 U.S.C. 1973b(a)). 
        More drastically, H.R. 351 could be interpreted to 
        eliminate such section 5 coverage entirely for these 
        jurisdictions.
          3. H.R. 351 also appears to eliminate the 
        availability of Federal voting examiners and observers 
        to protect individuals from being denied the right to 
        vote because they are members of language minorities. 
        See Section 6 (42 U.S.C. 1973d) and Section 8 (42 
        U.S.C. 1973f).
    In the past, Congress has recognized and understood the 
need for minority language voting assistance. It has extended 
the minority language provisions twice and the provisions are 
now in effect until 2007. The interest in a vital democracy--
through access to the ballot box--is not limited to any 
particular political party. Each enactment and amendment 
strengthening the minority language provisions has enjoyed 
strong bipartisan support in the Congress and the support of 
the Ford, Reagan and Bush Administrations. This Administration 
proudly joins this bipartisan tradition.
    More than our language that unites us. We are united as 
Americans by the principles of tolerance, free speech, 
representative democracy, and equality under the law. Because 
H.R. 351 contravenes each of these principles, we strongly 
oppose this bill.
    Thank you for this opportunity to provide the Department's 
views on H.R. 351. The Office of Management and Budget has 
advised this Department that there is no objection to the 
submission of this report from the standpoint of the 
Administration's program.
            Sincerely,
                                               Andrew Fois,
                                        Assistant Attorney General.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3 of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by the 
bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law proposed 
to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new matter is 
printed in italics, existing law in which no change is proposed 
is shown in roman):

                       VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965

          * * * * * * *

                         TITLE I--VOTING RIGHTS

    Sec. 2. (a) No voting qualification or prerequisite to 
voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or 
applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which 
results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen 
of the United States to vote on account of race or color[, or 
in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 
4(f)(2)], as provided in subsection (b).
          * * * * * * *
    Sec. 3. (a) Whenever the Attorney General or an aggrieved 
person institutes a proceeding under any statute to enforce the 
voting guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment in 
any State or political subdivision the court shall authorize 
the appointment of Federal examiners by the United States Civil 
Service Commission in accordance with section 6 to serve for 
such period of time and for such political subdivisions as the 
court shall determine is appropriate to enforce the voting 
guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment (1) as part 
of any interlocutory order if the court determines that the 
appointment of such examiners is necessary to enforce such 
voting guarantees or (2) as part of any final judgment if the 
court finds that violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth 
amendment justifying equitable relief have occurred in such 
State or subdivision: Provided, That the court need not 
authorize the appointment of examiners if any incidents of 
denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of race 
or color[, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in 
section 4(f)(2)], (1) have been few in number and have been 
promptly and effectively corrected by State or local action, 
(2) the continuing effect of such incidents has been 
eliminated, and (3) there is no reasonable probability of their 
recurrence in the future.
    (b) If in a proceeding instituted by the Attorney General 
or an aggrieved person under any statute to enforce the voting 
guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment in any 
State or political subdivision the court finds that a test or 
device has been used for the purpose or with the effect of 
denying or abridging the right of any citizen of the United 
States to vote on account of race or color[, or in 
contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2)], 
it shall suspend the use of tests and devices in such State or 
political subdivisions as the court shall determine is 
appropriate and for such period as it deems necessary.
    (c) If in any proceeding instituted by the Attorney General 
or an aggrieved person under any statute to enforce the voting 
guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment in any 
State or political subdivision the court finds that violations 
of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable 
relief have occurred within the territory of such State or 
political subdivision, the court, in addition to such relief as 
it may grant, shall retain jurisdiction for such period as it 
may deem appropriate and during such period no voting 
qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, 
or procedure with respect to voting different from that in 
force or effect at the time the proceeding was commenced shall 
be enforced unless and until the court finds that such 
qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure 
does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of 
denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or 
color[, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in 
section 4(f)(2)]: Provided, That such qualification, 
prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure may be enforced 
if the qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or 
procedure has been submitted by the chief legal officer or 
other appropriate official of such State or subdivision to the 
Attorney General and the Attorney General has not interposed an 
objection within sixty days after such submission, except that 
neither the court's finding nor the Attorney General's failure 
to object shall bar a subsequent action to enjoin enforcement 
of such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or 
procedure.
    Sec. 4. (a)(1) To assure that the right of citizens of the 
United States to vote is not denied or abridged on account of 
race or color, no citizen shall be denied the right to vote in 
any Federal, State, or local election because of his failure to 
comply with any test or device in any State with respect to 
which the determinations have been made under the first two 
sentences of subsection (b) or in any political subdivision of 
such State (as such subdivision existed on the date such 
determinations were made with respect to such State), though 
such determinations were not made with respect to such 
subdivision as a separate unit, or in any political subdivision 
with respect to which such determinations have been made as a 
separate unit, unless the United States District Court for the 
District of Columbia issues a declaratory judgment under this 
section. No citizen shall be denied the right to vote in any 
Federal, State, or local election because of his failure to 
comply with any test or device in any State with respect to 
which the determinations have been made under the third 
sentence of subsection (b) of this section or in any political 
subdivision of such State (as such subdivision existed on the 
date such determinations were made with respect to such State), 
though such determinations were not made with respect to such 
subdivision as a separate unit or in any political subdivision 
with respect to which such determinations have been made as a 
separate unit, unless the United States District Court for the 
District of Columbia issues a declaratory judgment under this 
section. A declaratory judgment under this section shall issue 
only if such court determines that during the ten years 
preceding the filing of the action, and during the pendency of 
such action--
          (A) no such test or device has been used within such 
        State or political subdivision for the purpose or with 
        the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on 
        account of race or color [or (in the case of a State or 
        subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment under the 
        second sentence of this subsection) in contravention of 
        the guarantees of subsection (f)(2)];
          (B) no final judgment of any court of the United 
        States, other than the denial of declaratory judgment 
        under this section, has determined that denials or 
        abridgements of the right to vote on account of race or 
        color have occurred anywhere in the territory of such 
        State or political subdivision [or (in the case of a 
        State or subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment 
        under the second sentence of this subsection) that 
        denials or abridgements of the right to vote in 
        contravention of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) 
        have occurred anywhere in the territory of such State 
        or subdivision] and no consent decree, settlement, or 
        agreement has been entered into resulting in any 
        abandonment of a voting practice challenged on such 
        grounds; and no declaratory judgment under this section 
        shall be entered during the pendency of an action 
        commenced before the filing of an action under this 
        section and alleging such denials or abridgements of 
        the right to vote;
          * * * * * * *
    (3) No declaratory judgment shall issue under this 
subsection with respect to such State or political subdivision 
if such plaintiff and governmental units within its territory 
have, during the period beginning ten years before the date the 
judgment is issued, engaged in violations of any provision of 
the Constitution or laws of the United States or any State or 
political subdivision with respect to discrimination in voting 
on account of race or color [or (in the case of a State or 
subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment under the second 
sentence of this subsection) in contravention of the guarantees 
of subsection (f)(2)] unless the plaintiff establishes that any 
such violations were trivial, were promptly corrected, and were 
not repeated.
          * * * * * * *
    (5) An action pursuant to this subsection shall be heard 
and determined by a court of three judges in accordance with 
the provisions of section 2284 of title 28 of the United States 
Code and any appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court. The court 
shall retain jurisdiction of any action pursuant to this 
subsection for ten years after judgment and shall reopen the 
action upon motion of the Attorney General or any aggrieved 
person alleging that conduct has occurred which, had that 
conduct occurred during the ten-year periods referred to in 
this subsection, would have precluded the issuance of a 
declaratory judgment under this subsection. The court, upon 
such reopening, shall vacate the declaratory judgment issued 
under this section if, after the issuance of such declaratory 
judgment, a final judgment against the State or subdivision 
with respect to which such declaratory judgment was issued, or 
against any governmental unit within that State or subdivision, 
determines that denials or abridgements of the right to vote on 
account of race or color have occurred anywhere in the 
territory of such State or political subdivision [or (in the 
case of a State or subdivision which sought a declaratory 
judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) that 
denials or abridgements of the right to vote in contravention 
of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred anywhere 
in the territory of such State or subdivision], or if, after 
the issuance of such declaratory judgment a consent decree, 
settlement, or agreement has been entered into resulting in any 
abandonment of a voting practice challenged on such grounds.
    (d) For purposes of this section no State or political 
subdivision shall be determined to have engaged in the use of 
tests or devices for the purpose or with the effect of denying 
or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color[, or 
in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 
4(f)(2)] if (1) incidents of such use have been few in number 
and have been promptly and effectively corrected by State or 
local action, (2) the continuing effect of such incidents has 
been eliminated, and (3) there is no reasonable probability of 
their recurrence in the future.
    [(f)(1) The Congress finds that voting discrimination 
against citizens of language minorities is pervasive and 
national in scope. Such minority citizens are from environments 
in which the dominant language is other than English. In 
addition they have been denied equal educational opportunities 
by State and local governments, resulting in severe 
disabilities and continuing illiteracy in the English language. 
The Congress further finds that, where State and local 
officials conduct elections only in English, language minority 
citizens are excluded from participating in the electoral 
process. In many areas of the country, this exclusion is 
aggravated by acts of physical, economic, and political 
intimidation. The Congress declares that, in order to enforce 
the guarantees of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to 
the United States Constitution, it is necessary to eliminate 
such discrimination by prohibiting English-only elections, and 
by prescribing other remedial devices.
    [(2) No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or 
standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by 
any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right 
of any citizen of the United States to vote because he is a 
member of a language minority group.
    [(3) In addition to the meaning given the term under 
section 4(c), the term ``test or device'' shall also mean any 
practice or requirement by which any State or political 
subdivision provided any registration or voting notices, forms, 
instructions, assistance, or other materials or information 
relating to the electoral process, including ballots, only in 
the English language, where the Director of the Census 
determines that more than five per centum of the citizens of 
voting age residing in such State or political subdivision are 
members of a single language minority. With respect to section 
4(b), the term ``test or device'', as defined in this 
subsection, shall be employed only in making the determinations 
under the third sentence of that subsection.
    [(4) Whenever any State or political subdivision subject to 
the prohibitions of the second sentence of section 4(a) 
provides any registration or voting notices, forms, 
instructions, assistance, or other materials or information 
relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall 
provide them in the language of the applicable language 
minority group as well as in the English language: Provided, 
That where the language of the applicable minority group is 
oral or unwritten or in the case of Alaskan Natives and 
American Indians, if the predominate language is historically 
unwritten, the State or political subdivision is only required 
to furnish oral instructions, assistance, or other information 
relating to registration and voting.]
    Sec. 5. Whenever a State or political subdivision with 
respect to which the prohibitions set forth in section 4(a) 
based upon determinations made under the first sentence of 
section 4(b) are in effect shall enact or seek to administer 
any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or 
standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting 
different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964, or 
whenever a State or political subdivision with respect to which 
the prohibitions set forth in section 4(a) based upon 
determinations made under the second sentence of section 4(b) 
are in effect shall enact or seek to administer any voting 
qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, 
or procedure with respect to voting different from that in 
force or effect on November 1, 1968, or whenever a State or 
political subdivision with respect to which the prohibitions 
set forth in section 4(a) based upon determinations made under 
the third sentence of section 4(b) are in effect shall enact or 
seek to administer any voting qualifications or prerequisite to 
voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to 
voting different from that in force or effect on November 1, 
1972, such State or subdivision may institute an action in the 
United States District Court for the District of Columbia for a 
declaratory judgment that such qualification, prerequisite, 
standard, practice, or procedure does not have the purpose and 
will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to 
vote on account of race or color[, or in contravention of the 
guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2)], and unless and until 
the court enters such judgment no person shall be denied the 
right to vote for failure to comply with such qualification, 
prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure: Provided, That 
such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or 
procedure may be enforced without such proceeding if the 
qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure 
has been submitted by the chief legal officer or other 
appropriate official of such State or subdivision to the 
Attorney General and the Attorney General has not interposed an 
objection within sixty days after such submission, or upon good 
cause shown, to facilitate an expedited approval within sixty 
days after such submission, the Attorney General has 
affirmatively indicated that such objection will not be made. 
Neither an affirmative indication by the Attorney General that 
no objection will be made, nor the Attorney General's failure 
to object, nor a declaratory judgment entered under this 
section shall bar a subsequent action to enjoin enforcement of 
such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or 
procedure. In the event the Attorney General affirmatively 
indicates that no objection will be made within the sixty-day 
period following receipt of a submission, the Attorney General 
may reserve the right to reexamine the submission if additional 
information comes to his attention during the remainder of the 
sixty-day period which would otherwise require objection in 
accordance with this section. Any action under this section 
shall be heard and determined by a court of three judges in 
accordance with the provisions of section 2284 of title 28 of 
the United States Code and any appeal shall lie to the Supreme 
Court.
    Sec. 6. Whenever (a) a court has authorized the appointment 
of examiners pursuant to the provisions of section 3(a), or 
(b), unless a declaratory judgment has been rendered under 
section 4(a), the Attorney General certifies with respect to 
any political subdivision named in, or included within the 
scope of, determinations made under section 4(b) that (1) he 
has received complaints in writing from twenty or more 
residents of such political subdivision alleging that they have 
been denied the right to vote under color of law on account of 
race or color[, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth 
in section 4(f)(2)], and that he believes such complaints to be 
meritorious, or (2) that in his judgment (considering, among 
other factors, whether the ratio of nonwhite persons to white 
persons registered to vote within such subdivision appears to 
him to be reasonably attributable to violations of the 
fourteenth or fifteenth amendment or whether substantial 
evidence exists that bona fide efforts are being made within 
such subdivision to comply with the fourteenth or fifteenth 
amendment), the appointment of examiners is otherwise necessary 
to enforce the guarantees of the fourteenth or fifteenth 
amendment, the Civil Service Commission shall appoint as many 
examiners for such subdivision as it may deem appropriate to 
prepare and maintain lists of persons eligible to vote in 
Federal, State, and local elections. Such examiners, hearing 
officers provided for in section 9(a), and other persons deemed 
necessary by the Commission to carry out the provisions and 
purposes of this Act shall be appointed, compensated, and 
separated without regard to the provisions of any statute 
administered by the Civil Service Commission, and service under 
this Act shall not be considered employment for the purposes of 
any statute administered by the Civil Service Commission, 
except the provisions of subchapter III of chapter 73 of title 
5, United States Code, relating to political activities: 
Provided, That the Commission is authorized, after consulting 
the head of the appropriate department or agency, to designate 
suitable persons in the official service of the United States, 
with their consent, to serve in these positions. Examiners and 
hearing officers shall have the power to administer oaths.
          * * * * * * *
    Sec. 13. Listing procedures shall be terminated in any 
political subdivision of any State (a) with respect to 
examiners appointed pursuant to clause (b) of section 6 
whenever the Attorney General notifies the Civil Service 
Commission, or whenever the District Court for the District of 
Columbia determines in an action for declaratory judgment 
brought by any political subdivision with respect to which the 
Director of the Census has determined that more than 50 per 
centum of the nonwhite persons of voting age residing therein 
are registered to vote, (1) that all persons listed by an 
examiner for such subdivision have been placed on the 
appropriate voting registration roll, and (2) that there is no 
longer reasonable cause to believe that persons will be 
deprived of or denied the right to vote on account of race or 
color[, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in 
section 4(f)(2)] in such subdivision, and (b), with respect to 
examiners appointed pursuant to section 3(a), upon order of the 
authorizing court. A political subdivision may petition the 
Attorney General for the termination of listing procedures 
under clause (a) of this section, and may petition the Attorney 
General to request the Director of the Census to take such 
survey or census as may be appropriate for the making of the 
determination provided for in this section. The District Court 
for the District of Columbia shall have jurisdiction to require 
such survey or census to be made by the Director of the Census 
and it shall require him to do so if it deems the Attorney 
General's refusal to request such survey or census to be 
arbitrary or unreasonable.
          * * * * * * *

                    [bilingual election requirements

    [Sec. 203. (a) The Congress finds that, through the use of 
various practices and procedures, citizens of language 
minorities have been effectively excluded from participation in 
the electoral process. Among other factors, the denial of the 
right to vote of such minority group citizens is ordinarily 
directly related to the unequal educational opportunities 
afforded them, resulting in high illiteracy and low voting 
participation. The Congress declares that, in order to enforce 
the guarantees of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to 
the United States Constitution, it is necessary to eliminate 
such discrimination by prohibiting these practices, and by 
prescribing other remedial devices.
  [(b) Bilingual Voting Materials Requirement.--
          [(1) Generally.--Before August 6, 2007, no covered 
        State or political subdivision shall provide voting 
        materials only in the English language.
          [(2) Covered states and political subdivisions.--
                  [(A) Generally.--A State or political 
                subdivision is a covered State or political 
                subdivision for the purposes of this subsection 
                if the Director of the Census determines, based 
                on census data, that--
                          [(i)(I) more than 5 percent of the 
                        citizens of voting age of such State or 
                        political subdivision are members of a 
                        single language minority and are 
                        limited-English proficient;
                          [(II) more than 10,000 of the 
                        citizens of voting age of such 
                        political subdivision are members of a 
                        single language minority and are 
                        limited-English proficient; or
                          [(III) in the case of a political 
                        subdivision that contains all or any 
                        part of an Indian reservation, more 
                        than 5 percent of the American Indian 
                        or Alaska Native citizens of voting age 
                        within the Indian reservation are 
                        members of a single language minority 
                        and are limited-English proficient; and
                          [(ii) the illiteracy rate of the 
                        citizens in the language minority as a 
                        group is higher than the national 
                        illiteracy rate.
                  [(B) Exception.--The prohibitions of this 
                subsection do not apply in any political 
                subdivision that has less than 5 percent voting 
                age limited-English proficient citizens of each 
                language minority which comprises over 5 
                percent of the statewide limited-English 
                proficient population of voting age citizens, 
                unless the political subdivision is a covered 
                political subdivision independently from its 
                State.
          [(3) Definitions.--As used in this section--
                  [(A) the term ``voting materials'' means 
                registration or voting notices, forms, 
                instructions, assistance, or other materials or 
                information relating to the electoral process, 
                including ballots;
                  [(B) the term ``limited-English proficient'' 
                means unable to speak or understand English 
                adequately enough to participate in the 
                electoral process;
                  [(C) the term ``Indian reservation'' means 
                any area that is an American Indian or Alaska 
                Native area, as defined by the Census Bureau 
                for the purposes of the 1990 decennial census;
                  [(D) the term ``citizens'' means citizens of 
                the United States; and
                  [(E) the term ``illiteracy'' means the 
                failure to complete the 5th primary grade.
          [(4) Special rule.--The determinations of the 
        Director of the Census under this subsection shall be 
        effective upon publication in the Federal Register and 
        shall not be subject to review in any court.
    [(c) Whenever any State or political subdivision subject to 
the prohibition of subsection (b) of this section provides any 
registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, 
assistance, or other materials or information relating to the 
electoral process, including ballots, it shall provide them in 
the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the 
English language: Provided, That where the language of the 
applicable minority group is oral or unwritten or in the case 
of Alaskan natives and American Indians, if the predominant 
language is historically unwritten, the State or political 
subdivision is only required to furnish oral instructions, 
assistance, or other information relating to registration and 
voting.
    [(d) Any State or political subdivision subject to the 
prohibition of subsection (b) of this section, which seeks to 
provide English-only registration or voting materials or 
information, including ballots, may file an action against the 
United States in the United States District Court for a 
declaratory judgment permitting such provision. The court shall 
grant the requested relief if it determines that the illiteracy 
rate of the applicable language minority group within the State 
or political subdivision is equal to or less than the national 
illiteracy rate.
    [(e) For purposes of this section, the term ``language 
minorities'' or ``language minority group'' means persons who 
are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives, or of 
Spanish heritage.]

                            judicial relief

    Sec. 204. Whenever the Attorney General has reason to 
believe that a State or political subdivision (a) has enacted 
or is seeking to administer any test or device as a 
prerequisite to voting in violation of the prohibition 
contained in section 201, or (b) undertakes to deny the right 
to vote in any election in violation of section 202, [or 203,] 
he may institute for the United States, or in the name of the 
United States, an action in a district court of the United 
States, in accordance with sections 1391 through 1393 of title 
28, United States Code, for a restraining order, a preliminary 
or permanent injunction, or such other order as he deems 
appropriate. An action under this subsection shall be heard and 
determined by a court of three judges in accordance with the 
provisions of section 2284 of title 28 of the United States 
Code and any appeal shall be to the Supreme Court.

                                penalty

    Sec. 205. Whoever shall deprive or attempt to deprive any 
person of any right secured by section 201[, 202, or 203] or 
202 of this title shall be fined not more than $5,000, or 
imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
          * * * * * * *
                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    By reporting H.R. 351, the Republican majority continues to 
attack the bi-partisan civil rights consensus that has existed 
in this nation for more than three decades. The minority 
language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act have 
been signed into law and supported by Presidents Ford, Reagan 
and Bush, as well as Presidents Clinton and Carter. During 
their most recent reauthorization in 1992, Senator Hatch (R-UT) 
said that the provisions are an ``integral part of our 
government's assurance that Americans do have * * * access'' to 
the ballot box.1 The fact that House Republicans would 
repudiate the civil rights positions of their own Presidents 
and Senate Judiciary Chairman only serves to illustrate how 
truly extreme their party has become.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ See infra note 17.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Denying citizens minority language assistance with regard 
to voting will not force or encourage them to learn English. As 
the late Hamilton Fish, Jr., then Ranking Republican on the 
House Judiciary Committee so eloquently stated in 1992, ``by 
enabling language minority citizens to vote in an effective and 
informed manner, we are giving them a stake in our society, and 
this assistance * * * will lead to more, not less, integration 
and inclusion of these citizens in our mainstream.'' 2
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ See infra note 18.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The evidence available to date indicates that the minority 
language provisions of the Voting Rights Act are an effective, 
targeted, low cost method of ensuring the Constitutional right 
to vote. According to the Government Accounting Office, the 
average cost of providing written assistance is minuscule, 
costing an average of 2.9% of election expenses or less.3 
Recent studies confirm that nearly three-fourths of Spanish 
speaking American citizens would be less likely to vote if 
minority language assistance were not available.4 
Moreover, by striking section 4(f)(2) of the Voting Rights Act, 
H.R. 351 goes so far as to dismantle federal anti-
discrimination language protections for language 
minorities.5
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ See infra note 33.
    \4\ See infra note 28.
    \5\ See infra notes 29-31.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Reporting this legislation represents yet another sad day 
for this Committee. Its actions are the equivalent of a modern 
day poll tax designed a century ago to keep African Americans 
from the voting booths. We urge the Members to oppose this 
extreme short-sighted measure.

i. the minority language assistance provisions of the voting rights act 
   are well grounded in experience and fact, and have enjoyed broad, 
                           bipartisan support

    The Voting Rights Act was first adopted in 1965 in response 
to discriminatory tactics faced by African American voters in 
the South. This landmark legislation granted to all American 
citizens the right to vote in any federal, state or local 
election.6 In 1975, Congress recognized that large numbers 
of American citizens whose primary language was not English had 
also been effectively excluded from participation in our 
electoral process, and added two significant minority language 
provisions to protect them.7 The first provision added was 
Section 4(f) of the Voting Rights Act, which requires, among 
other things, minority language assistance (such as bilingual 
ballots and other forms of minority language voting assistance) 
in those jurisdictions where:

    \6\ In originally passing the Voting Rights Act, Congress found a 
variety of devices were being used in the South to deny citizens the 
right to vote on account of their race or color. Chief among these 
discriminatory practices were: (1) literacy tests; (2) completion of 
application forms; (3) oral Constitutional understanding and 
interpretation tests; (4) understanding of the duties and obligations 
of citizenship; and (5) good moral character requirements. See 
generally, H. Rept. No. 439, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. (1965).
    \7\ This was not the first instance in American history where the 
importance of translation into minority languages was recognized. For 
example, in 1774 the Continental Congress ordered documents of its 
deliberations printed in German so that Americans of German descent 
could understand the decisions being made by that body. The Articles of 
Confederation were issued in English, German, and French. And in 
California, as early as 1850, the legislature authorized the 
dissemination of statutes, legislative journals and supreme court 
decisions in English and Spanish. See Juan F. Perea, ``Demography and 
Distrust: An Essay on American Languages, Cultural Pluralism, and 
Official English,'' 77 Minn. L. Rev. 269 (1992).

          (1) over 5 percent of the voting-age citizens, on 
        November 1, 1972, were members of a single language 
        minority group; (2) registration and election materials 
        were provided only in English on November 1, 1972; and 
        (3) less than 50% of citizens of voting age voted or 
        were registered to vote in the November, 1972 
        election.8
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ 42 U.S.C. sec. 1973b(f).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Section 4(f) is also subject to general provisions and 
limitations under the Voting Rights Act, including the 
requirement that any changes in voting procedures in a covered 
jurisdiction must be preapproved by the Department of Justice 
or Federal District Court.)
    The second provision added was Section 203 of the Voting 
Rights Act,9 which required similar minority language 
assistance in those jurisdictions where it is determined:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Section 203 is expressly predicated on rights guaranteed by the 
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (equal protection and the right to 
vote). See 42 U.S.C. sec. 1973a(a).

          (i) that more than 5 percent of the citizens of 
        voting age of such State or political subdivisions are 
        members of a single language minority and are limited-
        English proficient and (ii) that the illiteracy rate of 
        such persons as a group is higher than the national 
        illiteracy rate.10
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ In order for a jurisdiction to be covered, the 5 percent 
threshold must be met by a single language minority group (i.e., 3 
percent Spanish and 2 percent Chinese would not be covered under 
Section 203). For the purpose of the Voting Rights Act, the term 
``language minority'' includes ``persons who are American Indian, Asian 
American, Alaskan Natives, or of Spanish Heritage.'' 42 U.S.C. secs. 
1973aa-1 (b), (e), 1973l(c)(3).

Unlike Section 4(f), which is based on a one-time finding of 
discriminatory voting practices, Section 203 allows for a 
changing determination of coverage, based on census data.
    The 1975 Amendments were enacted on the recommendation of 
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights which found, among other 
things, that language minorities experienced high illiteracy 
rates and voting discrimination.11 Congress further 
determined language minority citizens suffered from voting 
discrimination as a result of inadequate numbers of minority 
registration personnel, uncooperative registrars, and the 
disproportionate effect of purging laws on non-English speaking 
citizens because of language barriers.12
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \11\ See Extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Hearings 
Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the Senate Comm.on the 
Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 771-789 (1975); See also, U.S. 
Commission on Civil Rights, Civil Rights Issues Facing Asian Americans 
in the 1990s, (1992) at 99.
    \12\ In addition to restrictive voter registration procedures aimed 
at language minorities, Congress found many obstacles were placed in 
the paths of language minority voters designed to frighten, discourage, 
frustrate, or otherwise inhibit participation by voting (e.g., failure 
to locate voters' name on precinct lists, location of polls at places 
where minority voters feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, or which are 
inconvenient to them, inadequacy of voting facilities, under-
representation of minority language poll workers and the lack of 
bilingual materials at the polls, and outright physical, economic and 
political intimidation). See generally, S. Rept. No. 295, 94th Cong., 
1st Sess. (1975).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In 1982, Congress again found that discrimination against 
language minorities affected their right to vote and extended 
the authorization for Section 4(f) of the Voting Rights Act for 
25 years (to 2007) and Section 203 for 10 years (to 
1992).13 In 1992, Congress continued to find inequitable 
treatment in education which resulted in high rates of 
illiteracy and impaired the ability of language minorities to 
vote.14 At this time Congress chose to reauthorize Section 
203 for an additional 15 years (to 2007, concurrent with the 
rest of the Act),15 and further broadened the scope of 
Section 203 to add a supplementary formula to cover counties 
where there are more than 10,000 voters in a single language 
minority group who speak English poorly.16
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\ Since the adoption of the Voting Rights Act, covered 
jurisdictions were found to have substantially moved from directly 
discriminatory impediments to voting to more sophisticated devices that 
dilute minority voting strength. In the period of 1975-80, the most 
common devices used to dilute minority voting power were annexations, 
the use of at-large elections, majority vote requirements, and the 
redrawing of district lines. 42 U.S.C. sec. 1973b(a)(F)(8); See S. 
Rept. No. 417, 97th Cong., 2nd Sess. 10 (1982).
    \14\ See generally, H. Rept. No. 655, 102nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 
(1992).
    \15\ 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973aa-1a(b)(1).
    \16\ For example, Los Angeles County has 200,000 limited English 
proficient voting age Hispanics, but had not previously been covered 
under Section 203, while small jurisdictions with far fewer Hispanics 
had been covered under the 5% threshold. Section 203 was also expanded 
to include jurisdictions which include any part of a reservation with 
5% or more Native American or Alaska Native limited-English proficient 
voting age citizens. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973aa-1a(b)(2)(A)(i)(II).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As was the case in 1975 (with President Ford) and 1982 
(with President Reagan), the 1992 Amendment was signed into law 
by a Republican President (Bush) and received broad and 
bipartisan support in the Congress. For example, during the 
1992 Senate Judiciary hearing regarding the extension of the 
minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Senator 
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated:

          The right to vote is one of the most fundamental of 
        human rights. Unless government assures access to the 
        ballot box, citizenship is just an empty promise. 
        Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, containing 
        bilingual election requirements, is an integral part of 
        our government's assurance that Americans do have 
        access.17
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \17\ S. Hrg. 102-1066, 102nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 1992 at 134.

    The late Hamilton Fish, Jr., the Ranking Republican, on the 
House Judiciary Committee, was similarly supportive when the 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Committee took up the 1992 authorization legislation, arguing:

          [I]t seems evident to me that by enabling language 
        minority citizens to vote in an effective and informed 
        manner, we are giving them a stake in our society, and 
        this assistance provides true access to government that 
        I trust will lead to more, not less, integration and 
        inclusion of these citizens in our mainstream.18
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\ House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 4312 and H.R. 5236, 
Transcript at 22-23, June 4, 1992.

    The 1992 Amendments were adopted by overwhelming bipartisan 
margins of 237-125 in the House, and 75-20 in the 
Senate.19 Yet, only four years later, this bill would 
repeal these provisions without evidence that the 
discrimination has ended.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ See 138 Cong. Rec. H6614 (daily ed. July 24, 1992); 138 Cong. 
Rec. S11825 (daily ed. August 7, 1992).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

   II. repeal of the minority language provisions will significantly 
                       obstruct the right to vote

    At the signing of the 1982 extension, President Reagan 
declared that the right to vote is ``the crowning jewel of 
American liberties'' and noted the Voting Rights Act ``proves 
our unbending commitment to voting rights.'' 20 
Unfortunately, by now seeking to strike the minority language 
assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Congress will 
be taking a dangerous step away from the Constitutionally 
guaranteed right to vote.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\ See Pub. Papers of the President--Administration of Ronald 
Reagan (1982) at 822.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To illustrate, the registration and voting statistics of 
language minority citizens when compared to their Caucasian 
counterparts was alarmingly low in 1972--before the Voting 
Rights Act was made applicable to language minorities. Only 
44.4% of citizens of Latino descent were registered to vote, 
while 73.4% of Caucasians were registered in 1972.21 And 
in 1974, only 22.9% of Latino-origin citizens participated in 
the national election, which was less than one-half of the 
participation rate for Caucasians.22
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \21\ S. Rept. No. 295, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975) citing Current 
Population Reports: 1972, Population Characteristics, Voting and 
Registration Statistics in the Election of November 1972, Series p. 20, 
No. 263, Table 1, at 22.
    \22\ S. Rept. No. 295, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975) citing 
unpublished data for the Current Population Survey: 1974, providing by 
the Bureau of Census to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Since then, the minority language assistance provisions of 
the Voting Rights Act have provided a catalyst for increased 
voter participation in language minority populations. From 1980 
to 1990, Latino voter population increased by five times the 
rate of the rest of the nation, and the number of Latinos 
registered to vote increased by approximately 500,000 between 
1990-92.23 Participation statistics for Native Americans 
also indicate an increase in turnout as a result of minority 
language voting assistance. One study indicates that voter 
turnout for reservation precincts on seven Arizona Indian 
reservations rose from 11,789 in 1972 to 15,982 in 1980.24 
similarly, the Navajo Nation reports that voter registration 
increased from 5,049 in 1972 to 7,015 in 1990 in McKinley 
County, New Mexico, and voter turnout increased from 9,706 in 
1972 to 18,355 in 1990 in Apache County, Arizona.25
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \23\ H. Rept. No. 655, 102nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 6 (1992); See also 
Letter from Antonia Hernandez, President and General Counsel, Mexican 
American Legal Defense and Education Fund, to the Honorable Charles T. 
Canady, Chairman, Subcomm. on the Constitution of the Comm. on the 
Judiciary, (April 23, 1996).
    \24\ See A Bill to Reauthorize Section 203 of the Voting Rights 
Act: Hearing on H.R. 4312 Before the Subcomm. on Civil and 
Constitutional Rights of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d Cong., 
2d Sess. 16 (1992) (Joint testimony of the Native American Rights Fund 
and the National Congress of American Indians).
    \25\ Navajo Nation Office of Election Administration, Window Rock, 
Arizona, May 17, 1996.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At the same time, exit polls revealed that in Los Angeles 
84% of Asian American voters indicated that bilingual ballots 
would be helpful,26 while 80% of Asian American voters in 
Chinatown and Queens, New York indicated they would vote more 
often if bilingual assistance were provided.27 Similarly, 
70% of monolingual Spanish-speaking American citizens have 
indicated they would be less likely to register to vote if 
minority language assistance were not available.28
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \26\ See A Bill to Reauthorize Section 203 of the Voting Rights 
Act: Hearing on H.R. 4312 Before the Subcomm. on Civil and 
Constitutional Rights of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d Cong., 
2d Sess. 16 (1992) (Statement of the Japanese American Citizens 
League).
    \27\ See The Bilingual Voting Provision of the Voting Rights Act of 
1965: Hearing on S. 2236 Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d 
Cong., 2d Sess. at 4-5 (1992) (Statement of Charles Pei Wang, Vice 
Chairman, United States Commission on Civil Rights).
    \28\ See Esteban Lizardo, Bilingual Elections: Latinos, Language 
and Voting Rights: A Report by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, 
(1992).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In addition to repealing the federal requirement for 
minority language assistance in voting, H.R. 351 dangerously 
vitiates a number of other critical protections currently 
provided under the Voting Rights Act. H.R. 351 repeals language 
in Section 4(f)(2) of the Voting Rights Act which prohibits the 
imposition of voting qualifications or procedures which 
discriminate against language minorities.29 Among other 
things, by repealing this key protection, H.R. 351 could 
prevent language minorities from being able to challenge 
actions designed to dilute their voting power, such as using 
``at large'' districts to minimize minority language voting 
strength.30 In addition, since section 3 of H.R. 351 
deletes various important cross-references to Section 4(f) 
throughout the Voting Rights Act, it could eliminate the 
requirement that jurisdictions having a previous record of 
discrimination against language minorities pre-clear changes in 
their voting procedures,31 and terminate the authority of 
federal examiners and observers to enforce voting guarantees 
with regard to minority language citizens.32 By repealing 
these provisions, a Republican party which purports to be 
against discrimination will allow the imposition of measures 
which intentionally discriminate against language minorities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \29\ ''No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or 
standard, practice or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any 
State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any 
citizens of the United States to vote because he is a member of a 
language minority group.'' 42 U.S.C. sec. 1973b (4)(f)(2).
    \30\ See, Letter from Andy Fois, Assistant Attorney General, 
Department of Justice, to the Honorable Henry J. Hyde, Chairman, House 
Judiciary Committee, (June 11, 1996) (``H.R. 351 appears to eliminate 
entirely the nationwide ban on discriminatory election practices 
against members of language minority groups. This could prevent members 
of language minority groups from being able to challenge vote dilution, 
such as that found unlawful by the court in Gomez v. City of 
Watsonville, 863 F.2nd 1407 (9th Cir. 1988); cert. denied, 489 U.S. 
1080 (1989) (successful challenge by Hispanics to city at-large 
election system)'').
    \31\ Id. (``H.R. 351 would also raise a host of questions about the 
coverage under section 5 of the Act [relating to preclearance of 
changes to voting procedures] that became covered as a result of the 
1975 changes to the Act.'').
    \32\ Id. (``H.R. 351 also appears to eliminate the availability of 
Federal Voting examiners and observers [under section 6 and 8 of the 
Act] to protect individuals from being denied the right to vote because 
they are members of language minorities.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

  III. The minority language assistance provisions offer a low cost, 
             efficient means of safeguarding voting rights

    The minority language assistance provisions of the Voting 
Rights Act constitute a low cost and efficient method of 
ensuring the Constitutional right to vote. The Government 
Accounting Office has found that the average cost of providing 
written language assistance in elections is negligible, costing 
an average of 2.9% of election expenses or less.33 
Seventy-nine percent of the jurisdictions responding to this 
study reported no costs in providing bilingual oral assistance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \33\ U.S. General Accounting Office, Bilingual Voting Assistance: 
Costs of Administering During the November, 1984 General Election 
(1985).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The County of Los Angeles, the only jurisdiction in the 
nation required by the Voting Rights Act to provide voting 
assistance in more than two languages, reported that during the 
1994 elections only 2% of its $15 million budget was spent on 
providing bilingual voting materials and assistance. The New 
York City Board of Elections reported that the cost of 
providing bilingual materials in Chinese and Korean for the 
1991 City Council elections was only $3,300.34 Wherever 
possible, the Justice Department seeks to keep the costs of 
minority language assistance at a minimum, working with 
minority language communities to develop flexible, low cost 
means of complying with the law.35
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \34\ Voting Rights Act: Bilingual Education, Expert Witness Fees, 
and Presley: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Civil and 
Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, 102nd Cong., 
2nd Sess. at 296 (1992).
    \35\ See, A Bill to Amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Hearings 
on H.R. 351 Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of House Comm. on 
the Judiciary, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. at 14-15 (1996) (Statement of 
Deval Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division), 
[Hereinafter, ``1996 House Hearings.''] For example, a program adopted 
by Alameda, County, California with the assistance of the Justice 
Department provides bilingual election information for some 12,000 
Chinese-speaking citizens without requiring the hiring of any new poll 
workers and uses efficient and flexible targeting of electoral 
information.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Despite its low cost, the benefits of minority language 
assistance are immense. According to the 1990 census, for 
example, in Cook County, Illinois, 87,977 voting age Hispanics 
lack sufficient English fluency to participate in English only 
elections; in Queens County, New York, 19,162 Chinese American 
voting age citizens also lack such fluency. In Los Angeles 
County, 39,886 Chinese American voting age citizens, and 
265,350 Hispanic voting age citizens are limited-English 
proficient.36 Repealing the minority language provisions 
of the Voting Rights Act will disenfranchise these and hundreds 
of thousands language minority citizens.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \36\ Id. at 11.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 IV. Repeal of the minority language provisions will not result in any 
          significant increase in English language proficiency

    One of the great red herrings of the legislative debate 
surrounding the minority language provisions of the Voting 
Rights Act is the assertion by supporters of H.R. 351 that such 
language assistance should be unnecessary because proficiency 
in English is a prerequisite to citizenship. This belies the 
fact that English proficiency is not required for citizenship 
if the applicant is over 50 years of age and has lived in the 
U.S. over 20 years, or if the applicant is over 55 years old 
and has been in the country for more than 15 years.37 More 
significantly many native born American citizens grow up 
speaking languages other than English. This includes Native 
Americans,38 Alaska Natives, Puerto Ricans and citizens 
residing in Guam and other U.S. territories without an English 
language heritage. Moreover, Hispanic children who grow up with 
Spanish as their first language are often educated in inferior 
schools and are frequently unable to obtain proficiency in 
English.39
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \37\ 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1423(b)(2).
    \38\ It is the declared policy of the U.S. government pursuant to 
the Native American Languages Act, to encourage the use and 
preservation of Native American languages. The Act specifically 
recognizes that the use of Native American languages should not be 
restricted in any public proceeding. See 25 U.S.C. secs. 2901, 2904.
    \39\ A study by the Civil Rights Commission found that Mexican 
Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans in the Southwest did 
not receive the benefits of public education at a rate equal to their 
Caucasian counterparts, and were denied equal educational opportunities 
in some situations. The Senate Judiciary Committee also found that high 
illiteracy rates in language minority communities was not due to mere 
happenstance, but was a result of the failure of the state to provide 
equal educational opportunities to members of language minority groups. 
See U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Voting Rights Act: Ten Years 
After (1975); See also U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Ethnic 
Isolation of Mexican Americans in Public Schools in the Southwest 
(1971).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Even to the extent a naturalized citizen is able to pass a 
citizenship test given in English, this does not mean he or she 
is able to readily understand the lengthy and complex ballot 
initiatives which have become so prevalent in recent years. And 
it is no answer to respond that such initiatives can be 
explained by the friends or family of the minority language 
citizen. As Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) noted during Committee 
consideration, it is often difficult for family members to 
explain such initiatives in the absence of importing their own 
political or partisan bias.40
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \40\ House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 351, Transcript at 
86, July 16, 1996.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusion

    It is a sad statement that at a time when voter 
participation remains unacceptably low, some in Congress could 
support legislation that further deters our citizens from 
voting. It is even more shameful to selectively raise the 
barriers to full voter participation for minority language 
citizens. Such citizens contribute fully to our society, pay 
taxes and fight and die for our country. They, no less than all 
of our other citizens, are entitled to participate in our 
democracy by exercising their right to vote.
    Although the focus of the debate surrounding this 
legislation has been on the use of foreign languages by 
immigrants, in reality, the core of the issue concerns the 
Constitutional and civil rights of American citizens--both 
native born as well as naturalized-- whose first language is 
not English. Limiting the voting rights of such citizens will 
add little to their incentives to become proficient in English, 
but will significantly increase their alienation from our 
society. The reality is that today's immigrants are already 
learning English at a rate equal to or faster than previous 
generations.41 If the proponents of H.R. 351 were truly 
interested in increasing understanding of the English language, 
they would seek to enhance the availability of English as a 
Second Language (ESL) classes--which face long waiting lists 
around the nation.42 In our view, H.R. 351 represents 
little more than a desperate effort by Republicans to find yet 
another divisive wedge issue deep into an election year--as 
Representative Schroeder noted, ``to keep hate alive.'' 43 
Instead of disparaging minority and Native American languages 
and limiting voting rights, we should be celebrating our 
diversity and tolerance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \41\ K. McCarthy & R. Burchiaga Valdez, ``Current and Future 
Effects of Mexican Immigration in California,'' (1986); C. Veltman, 
``The Future of Spanish Language in the United States,'' (1988); A. 
Califa, ``Declaring English the Official Language: Prejudice Spoken 
Here,'' 24 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 293, 314 (1989).
    \42\ In Los Angeles, the demand for ESL classes is so great that 
some schools operate 24 hours per day, and 50,000 students are on the 
waiting lists city-wide; in New York City, an individual can wait up to 
18 months for ESL classes. See 1996 House Hearings at 16, n. 35 (1996) 
(Statement of Deval Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights 
Division).
    \43\ House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 351, Transcript at 
73, July 16, 1996.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   John Conyers, Jr.
                                   Barney Frank.
                                   Howard L. Berman.
                                   John Bryant.
                                   Jerrold Nadler.
                                   Melvin L. Watt.
                                   Zoe Lofgren.
                                   Maxine Waters.
                                   Pat Schroeder.
                                   Bobby Scott.
                                   Xavier Becerra.
                                   Sheila Jackson Lee.