“Democracy should be for everyone,” says Michelle Romero of the Greenlining Institute. That sounds right.
She also argues that “California speaks 200 languages, but our initiative petitions speak only one. We can bring millions of voters fully into our democratic process, and it will only cost about a penny per person.”
Romero is talking about Senate Bill 1233, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), which mandates that the California Attorney General translate every citizen initiative or referendum or recall petition into nine languages: Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.
More people able to get involved politically? I like that.
Still, it was strange to see California legislators, who regularly scheme to wreck the initiative process, passing legislation to enable more participation. Well, it was strange, until I learned that SB 1233 doesn’t simply provide citizens with petitions in various languages, as an option. No, this legislation would force citizens to carry petitions not only in English, but also in those other languages.
Accordingly, SB 1233 forces initiative proponents to spend the money to print their petition in ten languages. Of course, for well-heeled political groups that’s a minuscule cost, but it makes it that much more difficult for less well-financed grassroots groups to participate.
Cesar Diaz, Legislative and Political Director of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, said, “It’s just common sense to give all voters an equal say in deciding what goes on the ballot.”
Forcing cumbersome requirements onto citizens petitioning their government won’t give voters a say. It’s just another sneaky measure devised by political insiders to make sure citizens have less input, not more.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.