Congressman Steve King

Representing the 4th District of Iowa

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King Flies Lawsuit Against Culver and Mauro for Violating Iowa's Official English Law

Jan 10, 2007
Press Release

For Immediate Release

KING FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST CULVER AND MAURO

FOR VIOLATING IOWA’S OFFICIAL ENGLISH LAW

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Congressman Steve King, along with citizen advocacy group U.S. English, Iowa County Auditors, state elected officials and a naturalized immigrant, today filed a lawsuit in state district court against Iowa Governor-elect Chet Culver and Secretary of State Michael Mauro for violating Iowa’s official English law.   

Last year, as Secretary of State, Culver placed illegal voting forms, such as voter registration and absentee ballot application forms, on taxpayer-supported Secretary of State website in foreign languages. Iowa’s new Secretary of State, Michael Mauro, has continued to violate Iowa’s law by placing voting forms on his website in Spanish, Bosnian, Vietnamese and Laotian.

However, Iowa law mandates that all official government communications must be in English. According to Chapter 1.18 of the Iowa Code, “the English language is hereby declared to be the official language of the state of Iowa.  All official… publications…shall be in the English language.”  Iowa’s official English law was authored and pushed through by King when he was a state Senator and signed into law by Governor Vilsack in 2002.

King wrote a letter to Culver last fall to call attention to the violation. However, Culver refused to remove the foreign language materials from his website, thereby refusing to comply with Iowa law.  King then announced he was prepared to move forward to enforce Iowa law.

“Unfortunately we can see a pattern for those who hold the title as Iowa’s chief elections officer,” said King. “Culver was in violation of the law, yet he refused to abide by the law. Mauro continues to be in clear violation of the law. However, neither of these officials is above the law.”

“Naturalized citizens are required to demonstrate proficiency in English as a condition of citizenship. English is the language of opportunity.  They are proud of their accomplishments and should not be discouraged from full assimilation into Iowa life,” added King. “No one in Iowa is entitled to register to vote in a foreign language.”

In 2000, King challenged Vilsack on the definition of Iowa law and was ultimately successful.

In the U.S. Congress, King is the recognized leader of the effort to establish English as the official language of the United States. In the 108th and 109th Congresses, King introduced the English Language Unity Act, which would establish English as the official language of the United States. The bill was among the most supported in the House. He plans to reintroduce the bill in the 110th Congress. In addition, he led the charge to allow the dated requirement to expire in the  Voting Rights Act which forces certain localities, not in Iowa, to provide and fund foreign language ballots.

Background on Iowa’s English Language Reaffirmation Act:

? Requires official communications, such as voter registration forms, to be in English. Private sector businesses are not affected.

? The law includes a narrow exception that allows translation by state officials if it is necessary to secure a constitutional right.  However, this does not allow foreign language ballots and voting materials. Voting is a right, but the U.S. Constitution does not provide a right for citizens to vote in any language they choose. Further, there is no jurisdiction in Iowa that is subject to the foreign language voting requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

? Only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections. In order to become a citizen, individuals must prove proficiency in written and spoken English.  Therefore, there is no reason to allow people to register in foreign languages.

? Under federal law, Iowans have the right to bring someone into the voting booth with them if they need help understanding the ballot. 

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