Tancredo, Maes oppose bilingual ballots despite federal law

In a debate Thursday, the three gubernatorial candidates were asked whether Colorado should accommodate Spanish-speaking people by printing bilingual ballots. American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo and Republican Dan Maes both said no.

Problem is, bilingual ballots are required by federal law in any county where at least 5 percent of the population speaks a language other than English, according to Colorado Secretary of State communications director Rich Coolidge.

He said Denver is required by federal law to print bilingual ballots. He said there are a total of eight counties that have to print in Spanish and said two counties provide oral ballots in Native American languages — Ute and Navajo — neither of which, he said, have written languages.

Voters who speak those languages go in the booth and put on headphones to listen to a ballot. The cost of ballots, whether in English or in multiple languages is borne individually by counties, he said.

“Ballots should not be printed in Spanish,” Tancredo said, adding that to become a citizen, people have to prove proficiency in English. “So, who gets these ballots?”

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, pointed out that some people are born here, as citizens, in families where English is never or seldom spoken. He said there are many families that have been in the San Luis Valley for five or six generations but still speak primarily Spanish.

Maes said he is opposed to bilingual ballots and also does not like bilingual schools. He said immigrants need to be immersed in the English language. He said providing bilingual schools interferes with people’s ability to assimilate.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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