Candidate removed from ballot over English rule

January 26, 2012 - 10:15 PM

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — A judge ruled that a city council candidate in Arizona must be removed from the ballot due to lack of English proficiency.

The ruling on Wednesday came after the San Luis City Council approved a motion Jan. 13 asking for verification that Alejandrina Cabrera met the requirement of a state law that any person holding office in the state, a county or city must speak, write and read English.

San Luis Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla filed a lawsuit in December asking the court to determine if Cabrera's English skills were sufficient to qualify her to seek the four-year council seat in the city's primary election.

Cabrera, who last year launched two unsuccessful attempts to recall Escamilla as mayor, was one of 10 candidates to file petitions to run for the council.

The Yuma Sun reported the removal of Cabrera from the ballot also stemmed from a Dec. 14 complaint made by former mayor Guillermina Fuentes that Cabrera isn't fluent in English.

Fuentes claimed she has acted as an interpreter for Cabrera.

Yuma County Superior Judge John Nelson ordered Cabrera's name stricken from the March ballot after a court hearing that ended Wednesday night.

Nelson's ruling was based on tests administered by a sociolinguistics expert, as well as her inability to respond to questions posed to her in English at Wednesday's hearing, the newspaper said.

Cabrera's lawyers, John Minore and John Garcia, said they're considering filing an appeal. They argued that state law doesn't set specific standards of fluency that candidates must meet.

Sociolinguistics expert William Eggington presented the court with results of three different tests he administered to Cabrera, who graduated from Kofa High School in Yuma. One measured her English-speaking skill, another was to determine if she reads the language, and the third was to assess her level of English comprehension.

Eggington's report said Cabrera's English skills don't meet the level of language proficiency needed to serve on the council.

Minore said the action against his client was politically motivated because of her efforts to recall Escamilla.

Cabrera began circulating petitions to recall the mayor in April after the council hiked utility rates and approved the layoffs of 12 city employees as part of spending cuts to balance the budget.

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Information from: The Sun, http://www.yumasun.com