A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned a ruling that might have kept an “official English” initiative off the state’s general election ballot.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, after a brief hearing, said that U.S. District Judge James Carrigan ruled erroneously last month, when he threw out numerous petitions circulated by backers of the proposed constitutional amendment.
The new ruling restores the proposal to the November ballot. It would have the state Constitution identify English as the state’s official language without defining what that means.
Carrigan had invalidated petitions circulated in 12 Colorado counties that have heavy Latino populations. He said that, under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the petitions should have been printed in both Spanish and English.
The appeals court disagreed with Carrigan. It said the petitions are not official state election materials and so are not subject to the provisions of that law.
The appeals court also said it appeared doubtful that opponents of the petition drive would win their case, so it was vacating the preliminary injunction Carrigan had issued.
Carrigan’s ruling had been cited in a suit, filed Tuesday in Miami, seeking to strike a similar official-English initiative from the Florida ballot. The Florida opponents also argued that signatures on petitions not printed in both Spanish and English were invalid.
The initiative is being pushed in Colorado by U.S. English, a nationwide organization promoting the designation of English as the official language. The group’s director, former U.S. Civil Rights Commission official Linda Chavez, said in a debate Tuesday night that the primacy of English is “under attack” in the United States.
Chavez denied that designating English the official language would be divisive or open the way to abuse of those who do not speak English.