The city of Allentown, Pennsylvania, voted not to remove English as its official language in a referendum ballot question on Tuesday.
“Shall paragraph B of Section 101 of the City of Allentown Home Rule Charter be removed from the Charter?” the ballot question read, according to the Morning Call.
Paragraph B of Section 101 of the Allentown Home Rule Charter states, “English shall be the official language of the City of Allentown and the language in which City business shall be conducted, unless otherwise required by applicable state and/or federal law or regulation.”
The Morning Call reports that 6,695 voted against removing English as the city’s official language, while over 3,000 voted in favor of the removal.
Some took issue with the question itself, suggesting that the wording of the question was unclear, according to the outlet. The Morning Call reports that mail-in voters did not receive plain English statements regarding the referendum and multiple city council members claimed that some polling stations did not have plain English statements pertaining to the referendum.
Had the referendum passed, the change would mainly be symbolic as the charter provision in no way prevents Allentown from communicating with non-English speakers, according to the Morning Call. Additionally, the provision does not hinder the city from “making city documents available in languages other than English,” according to the Morning Call.
The vote for the referendum came after the city council approved the ballot question in April by a vote of six to one, the outlet reports.
A city council ordinance, which late Councilmember Emma Tropiano headed, established English as Allentown’s official language in 1995, according to the Morning Call.
Tropiano reportedly garnered the support of 23 members of Congress for her belief that English should be the official language of the United States, according to a 2002 article from the Morning Call. Her legacy is surrounded by controversy as she stated in 1988 that Hispanics were responsible for 99 percent of an increase in crime in the city, the outlet reports.
“I guess I’ll go to the grave with the 99 percent [remark],” Tropiano said in 1989, per the Morning Call. “That will be on my tombstone.”