12 comments on “Living In A Red State: It Changes What I Pay Attention To

  1. Alejandrina Cabrera is who I believe you’re referring to, who tried to run for city council not county commissioner. It was in San Luis which according to 2010 census is not 98.7% Hispanic, it’s definitely less than 40% Hispanic no matter how you look at it, and possibly as low as 3.2%.

    Ms. Cabrera didn’t have “insufficient English skills,” she had “minimal survivor range” skills.

    If you listen to the judge trying to ask her questions from 3:10 – 3:49 in this video, you’ll hear she was unable to understand the judge enough even to answer the most simple questions. (There is a shorter vid posted with just her unable to understand any of the questions, but the comments are so mean I can’t bring myself to link it.)

    I do not understand why you feel her inability to communicate with judges, citizens, and all government officials that only speak the national language, would make her a viable city councilman. Or why this is a reason to name-call the judge, who sounds more than fair in all the videos online from this hearing.

    Here’s a site that’s easier to understand than the census site; I can see how someone could misunderstand the percentage categories on that site. http://www.bestplaces.net/people/city/arizona/san_luis
    This site has the same exact 2010 census data and explains 63.2% of San Luis claims “white.” (As you can see on the census site, too.) 3.2% claim Hispanic, and 35.8% claim “Other.”
    Even assuming all the “Others” are Hispanic, that’s still well under 40% of the population, not 98.7%.

    • Hey – thanks for your comment. You are correct. The contested office was City Council; not County Commission. My error. And I knew that too because the court challenge to her candidacy came from the City’s Mayor; a political opponent Ms. Cabrera twice attempted to have recalled. The judge barred her candidacy based on the 2006 Arizona law making English the office language. His ruling was upheld by the AZ Supreme Court.

      I got a little lost in the census data. If 3% of the people said their race was Hispanic then we need better census takers; it’s not one of the choices. It is about ethnicity, not race; though neither was really my point. I am not saying you’re stats are wrong but the conclusion is, if I understand it. The stats I quoted, with admittedly no attempt at confirmation, were from an American Renaissance piece. The LA Times described the community as “99% Hispanic”. The AZ cities demographics chart shows that 88% of the residents speak Spanish and 17% speak English. The actual percentage is irrelevant to my point. The practical ethnicity of San Luis is that it is a border community where Spanish is the primary language in the majority of homes and many, if not most, businesses. That is true even in some areas of Phoenix; and we don’t have the border running through the center of town.

      The opinion I am attempting to express about the legal environment here, and why I now pay attention to things that might previously have escaped my notice, is that the candidate was barred from running for office because of her English skills. To be clear, I express no opinion on Ms. Cabrera ‘s qualifications. One would have hoped that graduating from an AZ high school would have ensured at least minimally competent English skills but that does not appear to be the case. I do not dispute than her English in poor. Still, I think, if one is a citizen, a resident, has not had one’s civil rights restricted by adjudication, and follows the steps required to get one’s name on the ballot, one should be allowed to run for office. The voters should be allowed to decide whether she is the appropriate person to represent them. In every election here, the voters decide whether their representative’s Spanish or a Native tribal language skills are sufficient to represent them. Why don’t the voters get to decide about their representative’s English language skills in the same way?

      In this case, a political opponent, worried that Ms. Cabrera might be elected, opted to obstruct her candidacy in the courts and was successful in doing so. I think the judge’s ruling was correct under Arizona law. That’s my point. Arizona law makes English a requirement for public office; even when it is not the primary language spoken by most of the constituency. I never really thought much about the English-as-the-official-language issue when I lived in the Midwest. If I thought about it at all I probably thought; ‘what’s the big deal’? In this area, however, it is an issue that has been embraced as a sacred mission by right-wing conservatives, the Tea Party, Militia groups and white supremacists. There are practical reasons why a public official needs to be fluent in English but, in my opinion, it is naive not to understand that an intended outcome of having English-as-the-official-language laws is to make it more difficult for minority communities to gain equal access to political power. I think history has shown us that individual states will not follow the spirit of the Voting Rights Act without Federal oversight and enforcement. I think the fact that the AZ courts and voters are still disputing these rights in the 21st century proves that the ‘past sins are old news’ argument is specious.

    • Follow up – I was really intrgued by the numbers in the link you referenced for Sperling’s Best Cities so I did a little drilling. I can’t recreate Sperling’s numbers from the census data but Sperling’s appears to be confusing race with ethnicity. [Race and ethnicity are separate questions in the census. Most of the “white” people in that area are likely to also be Hispanic] It looks like Sperling is treating ‘white’ and ‘Hispanic’ as mutually exclusive groups. If I remember correctly, (I did a lot of government monitoring data at the bank) that was true in the 1990 census but changed for 2000 and 2010.

      The info in the Census Bureau’s site is really pretty straight forward; at least at the higher levels. I can’t attest to the exact accuracy of the numbers, of course, but they have to ring of truth about them compared to the observed reality living here.

      Sperling’s indicates 96.48% of San Luis is “non-Hispanic”

      In 2010; 16.3% of the US population was Hispanic; up from 12.5% in the 2000 census
      In 2010; 29.6% of the AZ population was Hispanic; up from 25.3% in the 2000 census

      Looking at distribution map:
      There are no counties in AZ less than 5% Hispanic.
      There are no counties in the southern half of the state that are less than 25% Hispanic.
      Yuma County (where San Luis is located) is more than 50% Hispanic; one of only 2 counties in AZ where the Hispanic percentage is over 50%.
      I haven’t drilled down the MSA level but, intuitively, if the population of the county is more than 50% Hispanic the idea that a city in that county that is actually on the Mexican border would be less than 4% doesn’t pass the sniff test.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head with the observation regarding race vs ethnicity. Also being there and seeing that city would be very telling. Still I think the census site is confusing, (not right, just confusing) reporting that 16,120 individuals answered “White Alone” where “two or more races,” and “some other race” were other options the citizen could have chosen for the answer.

        I’m not saying the census info is necessarily right, I’m saying it’s not straight forward. As you say, maybe it is clearer on the larger interpretations, but that clearer info is ascertained from this information, which makes that questionable too. http://censusviewer.com/city/AZ/San%20Luis

        Regardless of the confusion level of the census, I do see what you’re saying, I just don’t understand it. There are some videos with good information about why this is the way it is that came up during all the hours of hearing in Ms. Caberas case, but I just can’t link them because of the horrible comments surrounding that info. I feel so bad about some of those comments I’d like to send this lady a card just to say, “Don’t give up, keep trying.”

        I think it’s important for all government officials to be able to communicate with each other and read our road signs and law reference books, and be able to take a call from the President, or the National Weather Center, and speak in court with a judge, etc. Just like all of the other hundred-plus countries in the world that have one national language. Our reasons are the same as all of theirs. I can’t see how Ms Cabrera could officiate being unable to do all those things, though able to speak to some (and let’s go ahead and assume “all”) of her constituents.

        My friend Tommy has a construction crew with 6 guys on it that are from the Caribbean and speak only French. He hired a foreman that speaks French and English, so the foreman can speak to him, to the building inspector, the concrete company, the delivery drivers, the engineers, etc, and also speak to the crew. How could the crew possibly function if the foreman in charge of them spoke French and minimal survival English? How would Tommy be able to communicate information, danger, directions, or anything else? How would the foreman be able to read blue prints, storm warnings, or speak with planners or suppliers?

        That brings me back to what I asked initially. How could Ms. Cabrera run a city if she can’t communicate even minimally with everyone else involved in supplying information, goods, services and every thing else to that city?

        I also don’t see how any of her rights have been violated. She is welcome to learn the national language and run again for any office she wants. She has the same right as you or I do, and she has to meet the same requirements as we do. It’s not equal rights here, it’s special rights that I think you want. I don’t see why she should have a special right not to have to speak the national language, especially when it wouldn’t be detrimental.

        To me the language requirement of ours and 120 other countries makes sense. If she did learn English, she’d really have a leg up on other candidates who are not bilingual. I mean that with all die respect to her, to the judge that made a correct ruling while constantly interrupting the proceedings to stress that this was not about her intelligence or her ability, or her desire to be a good public servant. Or to you, or to the possibly 95% hispanic population of San Luis. MS Cabera can run for office again, and I personally hope she does, she just has to do some work on her language skills first.

      • Thanks for your comment. Interesting perspectives.

        The Census is confusing. When I was a mortgage originator I dealt with the “Government Monitoring Information” on loan applications. Applicants are asked to provide information about their race, ethnicity and gender because Lenders are required to report the data to ensure compliance with fair-housing laws. When I started in the business, Hispanic was a “race”. After the OMB changed their definitions, it became an “ethnicity”. The Census uses the same categories. It is a more accurate way to report but more variables inevitably lead to errors and confusion.

        All of your points about Ms. Cabrera are well taken; and a great summary of why I would find it very difficult to vote for her. Again, my point is not that she was qualified. Had she been allowed to run for office, voters would have had to decide whether her language skills made her the less qualified candidate. Hopefully their good sense would have prevailed and she would have gone home from the election with an understanding that she needs to improve her English before running again. Similarly, I am not saying that she was the victim of illegal discrimination. I think the judge’s ruling is in compliance with Arizona law, The State Supreme Court agreed.

        My point continues to be that individual states vary widely in the legal environment in which they operate elections and with widely varying degrees of ‘good faith’ in their commitment to be inclusive to minority communities. I cited Ms. Cabrera’s case as one of several examples of how the legal systems in some states, such as AZ, differ from other states in ways that may lead to the disenfranchisement of minority communities. Historically, English has been the national language in the US by custom; not by law. Not all states have English-is-the-official-language statutes. In those states, Ms. Cabrera would have been allowed to run and the voters would have had the opportunity to decide. In AZ the law prevented her from running. It is the different treatment from state-to-state that is troubling to me.

        I respect the intelligent, honorable, good-hearted, people who may disagree but, in my opinion, it is a valid role for the Federal government to provide monitoring and oversight of the election processes in States with a history of discrimination. That is the substance of the court challenge to Section 5 and the reason for the US Supreme Court’s review. It has been my experience that discrimination and targeted voter suppression are not relics of the mid-20th century but very much an issue today. Delete the Cabrera example from my post and the meaning is the same.

        Thanks again for reading and for the thought-provoking comments.

  2. they tried to suppress the vote here in PA – you gotta show an ID. that got struck down in time for this year’s election.

    but hereafter, we WILL BE FORCED to show ID courtesy of the rethuglicans that control our state guv’mint. they believe there is “massive voter fraud” in our state, when it HAS BEEN PROVEN that this fraud has happened less than 1%!

    methinks the feds will wanna watch over PA too.

    • Thanks for the comment. AZ law requires people provide ID to vote. Most of the provisional ballots are because people coming to the polls without adequate ID. There is no requirement for photo-ID but proof of address is required. I find it interesting, in looking at my own reactions to things, that that never bothered me. It probably should.

      • I have had to show my ID every time I vote, since 1992. I am Caucasian and never thought there was anything strange in this practice. Since only citizens can vote, it seems to be a logical request, to avoid non-citizen participation and prevent dead people from voting, like in Chicago in the early 20th century.

      • I don’t recall what we did in Michigan. Here it seems to be more focused on making sure people vote in the correct precinct since the address is the critical issue. US Passports, for example, are not acceptable identification alone because they don’t have addresses. Same for military IDs. They can be used but must be supplimented with something that shows a current address.

        Citizenship and other eligibility issues need to be addressed at registration- not at the polling place. I can only imagine how fair the process would be if the Poll Workers were put in charge of eligibility; and I say that as someone who has been a Poll Worker in the past 3 elections.

  3. I believe that the “voter suppression” attempts were rampant enough to merit a national intervention and a Federal law to protect the voting rights of all minority voters. The next reason may be a religious one – no voting if you are Muslim or Jewish. I am reminded of this:
    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me

    Martin Niemöller

    Thank you for speaking up. Now watch your back.

  4. This makes for interesting reading, I was not fully aware of all these rules to vote. Too bad the USA seceded from the British Empire, you could have saved yourself all this had you remained within the fold. In Canada we have so many spoken languages now that I cannot see how we could deny anyone a vote. This simply does not happen here, but then voting is a strictly Federal jurisdiction. In the case of cities they simply follow the same law for voting. Not too late to apologize and say that you were wrong in the rebellion of yours, I am sure Her Gracious Majesty will forgive you all and then you can be just like us in Canada, nice people who get along.

    • Well there are a number of folks here seeking to secede. Perhaps Canada would like some southern provinces? I am not sure what they would do for the ‘nice people who get along’ demographic however. That seems to be in short supply down here these days.

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