The Associated Press
By Paul Davenport
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/143924
PHOENIX — Some Arizonans are lashing out at the state's campaign finance agency for its bilingual candidate pamphlet, which critics call an affront both for reasons of language and cost.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission received 17 letters and faxes critical of the pamphlet mailed to all voters' households before the primary election, and a commission aide said dozens more people telephoned the commission's Phoenix office to complain.
The criticism of the bilingual pamphlet, mailed to 1.6 million Arizona households, comes at a time of increased debate concerning illegal immigration and several months before Arizonans vote on a legislative referendum to make English the state's official language.
"This is really irritating," one letter writer, Ira Larsen of Tucson, said during a telephone interview. "To me, to print those things in Spanish is . . . unpatriotic in a sense that English is our primary language, and our Founding Fathers determined that."
The primary election version of the commission's pamphlet opens with 106 pages of candidates' statements in English and follows with the same statements translated into Spanish on the same number of pages.
"This is AMERICA not Mexico and our language is ENGLISH not Spanish," Mike and Judy Lairmore wrote in a July 27 letter. "We resent our hard-earned tax dollars being wasted like this."
Larsen's July 24 letter said it doesn't make sense to print the pamphlet in Spanish because voters must be citizens, and naturalized citizens must be able to read and write English.
"It's time we get real and quit bending over for people who don't qualify for full participation in this democratic process, which seems to be fading, I'm sorry to say," Larsen wrote.
Michael Becker, the commission's voter education manager, fielded many of the calls complaining about the pamphlet.
"I referred them to their congressmen and explained the Voting Rights Act" and 1975 amendments that imposed the mandate, Becker said.
A 1998 voter-approved state law that created the Clean Elections funding system for state election campaigns also mandated that the commission publish pamphlets with statements submitted by candidates. A federal law intended to protect minorities' voting rights requires that Arizona produce the pamphlet, like other election materials, in both English and Spanish.