Voting Rights Act: Bill Winter Responds

Last Thursday Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo voted to not renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act, because there were provisions in the act that would implement bilingual ballots in certain areas.

Today, Tancredo’s Democratic opponent, Bill Winter, responded in an e-mail interview about the vote, and what provisions should be allowed. Q: What do you think about Tancredo’s vote to not renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

A: I think that this vote is just one more in a history of votes that are out of touch with America and the people of Congressional District Six. I also do not believe his stated rationale for voting against this bill.

There are 435 members of the United States House of Representatives. Mr. Tancredo was one of only four to vote against the Violence Against Women Act. He was one of only eleven to vote against aid to Katrina Victims. He was one of only 34 to vote against the President’s Foreign Aid package. And now he is one of only 33 to vote against the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Tancredo is very clearly out of touch with America and with the people of this District. I do not believe that the people of CD6 are against protecting women from violence and against equal rights in voting and against helping their fellow Americans. Therefore, Mr. Tancredo’s voting record is very clearly ridiculous.

Q: Do you think there is a need for bilingual ballots in our electoral system? If so, why?

I believe that we should do anything we have to do to make sure that anyone legally allowed to vote is able to do so with ease and complete understanding. I do believe that we should be encouraging people to learn english, assimilate into our culture, and that we should be providing the means to do so.

That being said, however, if someone is a U.S. citizen and has difficulty with english, then we should find ways to ensure that they understand their ballot. There were those in earlier eras who insisted that only those who could read should be allowed to vote. Such standards were almost always a way to keep the vote from certain minorities that were to have their voting rights wrongfully limited.

I believe that is the basis for Mr. Tancredo’s objection. I believe that he wants to limit the rights of hispanic Americans to vote. I believe that is wrong.

There are any number of reasons why someone might have difficulty READING english–note that the objection was to a rule designed to help those with trouble reading english, not speaking it. I would not deprive anyone of their legal right to vote because they cannot read english proficiently.

Winter also stated that he would support a amendment making it a constitutional right to vote.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at