GOP candidate for Arizona's secretary of state wants election ballots to be printed in English only

Steve Gaynor believes that "faster any immigrants learns English, the quicker they assimilate into American society"

                            GOP candidate for Arizona's secretary of state wants election ballots to be printed in English only
(Source:Getty Images)

A Republican running for the office of Arizona's next secretary of state said last weekend that election ballots should be printed in English only, drawing reactions from both sides of the political aisle. Candidate Steve Gaynor made the contentious remark in Wickenburg during a Republican forum last Saturday, the Arizona Republic reported.

Gaynor, who is the owner of a printing business in Southern California, said, "My printing plant in LA printed an information pamphlet not too long ago. It had 18 languages on it. I would be the first to say it should be -- ballots, information pamphlets, all the material in our country -- should be in English."

However, the incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan accused Gaynor of "pandering" to far-right groups, according to the paper. Reagan is one of his opponents in the state's GOP primary to be held on August 28. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Gaynor has chosen to pander to extreme nationalist groups regarding an issue that the secretary of state has little or no jurisdiction," Reagan said.

But Brian Seitchik, Gaynor's campaign strategist, retorted to Reagan's statement, saying that her words were "the last gasp from the most incompetent secretary of state in modern Arizona history."

Gaynor added, "I think it should be up to the states to decide what they want to do with regard to their voting materials. But I think the faster any immigrant learns English, the quicker they assimilate into American society."

On the other side of the aisle, state Sen. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix), who is also a candidate for secretary of state, called Gaynor's remarks "worrisome."

"Off the bat talking about restricting that access is concerning," Hobbs said. “I think his comments really speak for themselves."

In a conversation with the Republic, Maggie Acosta, the lead canvasser for a progressive voter advocacy group, said that many of the state's voters who spoke and read English still preferred to cast a ballot in their first language for accuracy, and hence Spanish-language materials were crucial during the procedure.

“A lot of the people are willing to (vote), yet they are afraid that they’re going to make a mistake on something," Acosta said. "They get discouraged and they’d just rather not vote."

According to her, many voters are "relieved" when she tells them they will get pamphlets and ballots in Spanish. "It’s a thing of satisfaction for me when I see the smile on their faces," she said.

Having said that, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that some districts must cater to minority citizen groups who speak different languages by providing election materials to suit their requirements. But while speaking at the Wickenburg forum, Gaynor explained that he supports repealing the federal law for good. "We need to do one thing to solve this problem, have 60 Republican senators who have the guts to vote the way they need to vote," he said.