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California Proposition 38, Voting Materials in English Only (1984)

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California Proposition 38 was on the November 6, 1984 statewide general election ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was approved.

Proposition 38 required the Governor of California to deliver to "the President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, and all Members of Congress" a statement urging the federal government to enact an amendment to federal law "so that ballots, voters' pamphlets, and all other official voting materials shall be printed in English only."

Supporters of Proposition 38 were motivated to collect signatures to place the initiative on the ballot when the California Secretary of State reported that the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982, would require 10 of California's 58 counties to "provide members of certain language minority groups with information in their native language that will help them exercise their right to vote." The federal law triggers that requirement in situations where a "language minority group ... does not speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process and whose voting age population comprises more than 5 percent of the county's total number of citizens of voting age."

The four specified language minority groups in 1984 were: American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan natives, and persons of Spanish heritage.

Election results

Proposition 38
Approveda Yes 6,390,676 70.5%


The arguments in the official voter guide in favor of Proposition 38 were signed by:

  • S. I. Hayakawa, Ph.D.; United States Senator 1977-1982
  • J. William Orozco; Businessman
  • Stanley Diamond; Chairman, California Committee for Ballots in English


The arguments in the official voter guide opposed to Proposition 38 were signed by:

Ballot summary

Proposition 38's official ballot summary said, "States declaration of public policy concerning use of common English language. Adds a new statute requiring the Governor to write to the President of the United States, the United States Attorney General, and all members of Congress, a communication urging that federal law be amended so that ballots, voters' pamphlets, and all other official voting materials shall be printed in English only."

Fiscal impact

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"The cost to the state of providing the written communication required by this measure would be insignificant."

External links