Woman sues to block Nashville vote on ‘English First’

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NASHVILLE — A Davidson County resident from El Salvador has sued to block a special election to decide whether most Metro-Davidson County government services should be delivered in English.

Rosa A. Quinteros said in her Chancery Court petition yesterday that she has limited proficiency in English and that the charter amendment being voted on would violate her right of free speech.

Quinteros’ attorney, David Randolph Smith, told The Tennessean: “Speech in this country is free in foreign languages, too.”

Quinteros is described by the newspaper as a “legal immigrant given temporary asylum status because of conditions in her country.”

Councilman Eric Crafton's amendment to the Metro Charter would prevent the city from translating written materials into other languages or using interpreters to communicate with people who don't speak English well, although an exception would apply if a person's health or safety was at risk.

A technicality kept the measure off the November ballot, but Crafton turned in a petition calling for the special election Jan. 22 with early voting to begin Jan. 2.

Davidson County Election Administrator Ray Barrett told the newspaper that the special election would cost taxpayers about $300,000.

Crafton has said the measure, if approved, would make Nashville the first major metropolitan area where English is the official language.

Crafton described Quinteros’ suit as unreasonable.

“They are trying to suppress democracy and suppress the people's right to govern themselves,” Crafton was quoted by The Tennessean as saying. “Basically what this demonstrates to me is that they think they are going to lose if this goes to the voter.”

Sue Cain, Metro legal director, told the newspaper that her staff would review the suit today and then decide how to respond.

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