COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

Regarding “Application ordinance passes,” Feb. 20: I do not presume to question the motives, political or otherwise, of those city councilmen who voted for or against the recent ordinance preventing third parties from handling completed absentee ballot applications, nor am I aware of any creditable allegation that local campaign offices have actually tampered with these applications.

I accept the position of certain minority groups that changing the procedure may somewhat disadvantage individuals with limited English.

Motives, speculation about past behavior and the possibility of inconvenience for some voters should never interfere with the effort to eliminate obvious opportunities for electoral fraud.

Eliminating the mere appearance of impropriety must be the predominant consideration if the democratic process is to work effectively. Belief that the process accurately reflects the will of the voter is critical.

The singular protection of minority rights in a democracy is the secret ballot cast by an informed voter and processed in a secure electoral system.

In many countries, riot and civil war have resulted when the mere suspicion of electoral tampering occurs.

American electoral history (particularly on the local level) is fraught with tales of fraud, ballot box stuffing, impossible literacy tests specifically designed to disenfranchise minorities and votes cast in the name of the dearly departed.

The effort to exert undue influence and restrict the information available to ethnic and racial groups, particularly those with limited language skills, also has a long history in our cities.

Protection of the voting process demands continual vigilance.

The founding fathers’ fear of the uninformed voter resulted in stringent restrictions on the right to vote in the early years of our nation’s existence. We have come a long way from their requirements that a citizen own property and be a white male in order to vote. They insisted on these requirements out of fear that those without property and a vested interest in the country’s well-being would not make the effort to cast an informed vote.

Those unable to understand English are at a particularly distinct disadvantage when it comes to fulfilling their civic responsibilities.

The inability to expose oneself to divergent points of view regarding a candidate or a ballot initiative leaves the limited-English-speaking individual entirely dependent on the narrow input of family or like-thinking peers.

The privilege of voting demands that the citizen make a comprehensive assessment of the pros and cons of a candidate’s positions or a ballot measure’s effects. The ability to step back and consider the well being of the larger community when voting is a mainstay of a stable society.

A campaign office is probably the last place one might expect to find an objective opinion on which to base one’s vote.

A poorly informed voter is often the result of being incapable of taking advantage of the abundance of English language resources available.

Voter guides in a variety of languages are helpful but by no means adequate to understanding a candidate’s positions or the potential consequences of a given ballot initiative.

The inability to access diverse perspectives as those offered in the media and telecasts of City Council meetings severely limit the individual’s capacity to take advantage of our unique system of free speech and press.

The proposition system in California further compounds the language problem.

Complex wording and the lack of transparency with respect to the potential consequences and the vested interests who will benefit requires careful research on the part of the most astute voter.

Many opportunities to learn English are readily available, and it is incumbent on our new citizens and those striving to achieve citizenship to take full advantage of these resources.

I am not in favor of legislation to declare English our national language.

I do recognize boundaries to so-called multiculturalism and acknowledge that English is a profound and necessary expression of what makes America unique: our value system, culture and way of life.

I am a strong believer that the culture, language and traditions of the immigrant’s native land should be preserved.

I also contend that the newcomer to America who does not make the effort to learn English will never fully appreciate and be able to take full advantage of the special gift America offers to all who come here.

I understand the concerns of various minority groups and organizations regarding the change to the absentee ballot system. A democratic form of government sometimes requires uncomfortable concessions to a higher and worthier principle; in this case, preservation of the integrity of our local electoral system.

The absentee ballot, originally designed to accommodate those unable to get to the polls, has become the lazy man’s way to go.

If it would not further reduce the number of voters, I would suggest limiting the absentee ballots’ use to those with legitimate reasons for not voting in person.

My suspicion is that voters who make the effort to cast their vote at their polling place are probably better-informed voters.

The change in the absentee ballot application process should not be construed as discriminatory since the same standard will apply to all.

It is consistent with the objectives and spirit of national and state voters acts and regulations.

I applaud the City Council’s decision to pass the measure. Their action is a small but important step in defending the credibility of the electoral system.

The citizen’s right to a secret ballot, accurately counted and untampered with, is the goal we are all striving to achieve.


 PATRICK S. GRANT is a Glendale resident.

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