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Ariz. Supreme Court Affirms Decision Keeping Candidate Off Ballot Because of Poor English Skills

Posted Feb 8, 2012 11:17 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Arizona Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court ruling keeping a local candidate off the ballot because her English language skills are lacking.

The two-page order by the Arizona Supreme Court didn’t detail reasons for the decision, report the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the Yuma Sun and Reuters. The order was issued on an expedited basis; a written decision will be released later.

A Yuma County judge had banned Alejandrina Cabrera from the March 13 primary ballot for the San Luis city council in a Jan. 27 ruling. Cabrera had maintained her English ability was sufficient to meet state law requirements that elected officials know how to speak English. A linguist disagreed. He had submitted a report finding that Cabrera had only a “survival” level of English and did not have the language skills to be a city council member.

Cabrera’s lawyer, John Minore, criticized the decision in an interview with the Yuma Sun. “This is a fine example of judicial activism,” he said. “Arizona now has a English standard to be on a ballot but doesn't tell you what that standard is.”

Minore told AP his office is looking for ways to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But he told Reuters that financial hurdles make an appeal unlikely. "We'd love to but we can't fund it. We're just small little rural law firms. We can't afford to go forward," Minore said. "We have mortgages to pay and families to feed. We can't donate any more time."

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