SACRAMENTO – The California Senate took a major step toward involving the 6.9 million Californians who don’t speak English very well in the ballot initiative system today, passing SB 1233 by a vote of 24 to 14, with two abstentions. The bill would require the state to translate ballot initiative materials being circulated for signature-gathering into widely-spoken languages.
“This bill is an important step to protect the rights of all of California’s voters by providing election materials in different languages,” said bill author Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). “By failing to provide language appropriate petitions, thousands of voters have been and continue to be left out of the process of determining which initiatives qualify for the ballot. It is imperative that we provide initiative material in all the languages covered by the 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act,” said Senator Padilla.
The Greenlining Institute brought the issue to Senator Padilla earlier this year, after completing a statewide listening tour to hear from California voters about their experiences with the initiative process. “We kept hearing about how voters were being misled and excluded by the initiative process because petitions are only available in English,” said Michelle Romero, Greenlining’s Our Democracy program manager. “By passing SB 1233, we can uphold the rights of millions of citizens to participate in our democracy and help determine what goes on the ballot.”
Endorsers of SB 1233 include:
Greenlining Institute (Sponsor)
American GI Forum of California
Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Common Cause
California Church IMPACT
Council of Asian American Business Associations of California
El Concilio of San Mateo County
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Empower San Diego
First AME Church of South Los Angeles & FAME Corporations
Hmong American Political Association
Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund
Mission Language & Vocational School
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials
National Council of La Raza and its California Affiliate Network
Having passed the Senate, SB 1233 now goes to the Assembly.