Anti-Immigrant Rep. Steve King Sues Home State for Polyglot Voter Registration

Rep. Steve King was one of the leading anti-immigrant voices during last year’s debate. The Iowa Republican pushed hard to make the House immigration bill even more severe, invented his own electrified border fence (“We do this with livestock all the time”), and rallied with the Minuteman vigilante group. Now, with the House leadership that passed the draconian H.R. 4437 in the minority, King is turning his sights back on Iowa by suing the incoming governor. The AP reports:

Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King and hard-line immigration advocates are suing Gov.-elect Chet Culver for allegedly violating the state’s official English law by distributing voter information in several languages while serving as secretary of state.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state District Court, also names incoming Secretary of State Michael Mauro, charging he placed voter information on his official Web site in Spanish, Bosnian, Vietnamese and Laotian.

“Unfortunately, we can see a pattern for those who hold the title as Iowa’s chief election officer,” King, a Republican, said in a statement. “Culver was in violation of the law, yet he refused to abide by the law. Mauro continues to be in clear violation of the law. However, neither of these officials is above the law.”

While it may seem unusual for a U.S. representative to sue over a state law, King himself was the author of that law. Presaging his career in Congress, where Rep. King proposed a national English-only law and held up the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act over the provision on bilingual ballots, then-state Senator King sponsored a bill in 2001 stating that “the English language is hereby declared to be the official language of the state of Iowa.”

But it is unusual for King to forget the exemption his bill carved out for “Any language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.” Such as, say, the right to vote. After King first raised his concerns in the fall, according to the AP,

Attorney General Tom Miller – the state’s top law enforcement official – later issued a statement siding with Culver. He said the secretary of state’s actions were legal because the English-only law permits the state to help residents exercise their constitutional right to vote. In addition, bipartisan Voter Registration Commission rules allow materials to be distributed in foreign languages, Miller said.

King was widely criticized for his casual use of extremist rhetoric during last year’s immigration debate. An op-ed he wrote in April denounced a pro-immigrant demonstration as “Bite the Hand that Feeds You Day” put on by “illegal invaders.” The Wall Street Journal reported in September that he “regularly accuses illegal immigrants of committing sex crimes against ‘eight little girls’ a day as part of ‘a slow-motion terrorist attack.’” For now, it appears his efforts to translate these sentiments into federal law are on hold, perhaps leading King to devote his energy to steering the debate in his home state. Sorry, Iowa.

King on House floor

King on the House floor: “we do this with livestock all the time.” Courtesy ThinkProgress.