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LULAC sues over "English Only" Law preventing translated voting materials

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Iowa, (KWWL) - Iowa's "English Only" law was first introduced in 2001, and signed into law by 2002 from former Governor Tom Vilsack. The law restricts all official political material to the English language. 

Up until 2008, many counties still provided translated documents when requested. However, an injunction by former congressman Steve King that year prevented the translations, as well as tied all voting material into the law. 

The League of Latin American Citizens in Iowa (LULAC) is now suing the state, on the grounds that the "English Only" law infringes on constitutional rights. Joe Henry, Political Director of the non-profit, says it's all laid out in the constitution.

"Clearly this is infringes on the 14th and 15th amendment, to not have information translated in other languages, as it had been before 2008," he said.

Henry says that restricting the language is directly impacting voters. With recent changes to when and how people vote, Henry says the roadblocks preventing a non-English reader begin with not being able to read that the laws changed in the first place. 

"Language has never been used to determine if a person is a citizen. This is not who we are as a state," he said.

Current Secretary of State, Paul Pate, is listed as a defendant on the suit. His office sent the following statement:

"The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office is still under injunction stemming from a 2008 court decision which prevents the dissemination of official voter registration forms for this state in languages other than English. LULAC is aware of that fact. They openly recognized it in their own petition."

"Unfortunately the Secretary of State at the time did not object, did not go back to court to argue that it did infringe on the rights of citizens here in Iowa," Henry said.

Federal Law does require poll volunteers to assist at booths when someone requests it. However, as LULAC points out, without government assistance it's nearly impossible to be able to guarantee a volunteer translator at every poll site. 

"You may be able to speak English, but reading the language is more complicated.This is a constitutional issue, that goes beyond what volunteer services can do," Henry said.