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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Questions from Listeners About How Americans Vote / Queen Latifah Explores a Musical World Before Rap - 2004-10-15

Broadcast: October 15, 2004


DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music from Queen Latifah ... and questions from listeners about voting in America.

And, we'll tell you about a special program next week to mark an anniversary for Special English.


On November second, Americans will choose a president and vice president. They will elect members of Congress and state and local officials. And they will decide local measures. Between now and Election Day, we are going to answer listener questions about voting.

Mister Nguyen from Vietnam wants to know how Americans vote for president. And C. Jayakumar of Tamil Nadu, India, and M.S. Haque of Bangladesh, both ask how old Americans must be to vote.

Voters must be at least eighteen. The voting age used to be twenty-one years old, until the Constitution was changed in nineteen seventy-one.

Here is another fact. Until nineteen twenty, the Constitution did not permit women to vote. Today women vote at higher rates than men in national elections. The Census Bureau says this has been true for more than twenty years.

Still, not all adults have the right to vote. Most of the states require voters not to have been found guilty of a major crime. Voters must also be American citizens. And they must be registered to vote in the area where they live. Their names must appear on a local election list.

In many states, a person must register at least two to four weeks before an election. Voters do not have to register again unless they move to a different area or do not vote in several elections.

On Election Day, people usually vote in a school or other public building near their home. Voting is done by secret ballot. But local election officials decide what kind of voting equipment is used.

Paper-and-pencil ballots are rare these days. But many systems still do use paper. Voters mark their choices on the ballot and a computer counts the votes. Some places use machines to record votes when a person moves a lever next to the name of a candidate. These kinds of machines are old and are slowly being replaced.

Other kinds of voting machines use punch cards. Voters use a device to make holes in the ballot to mark their choices. Then a computer passes light through the holes to count the votes. But these devices are also being replaced.

The problems with vote counting in Florida four years ago led Congress to pass the Help America Vote Act. Under this two thousand two law, states are getting money to buy modern technology. Still, officials say most voters this November will vote on the same equipment they used four years ago.

The most modern voting machines today use touch screen technology. Voters press on a computer screen to enter their choices. But some people question the security of these machines, especially without a printed record of the votes.

One way to avoid any machine at all is to vote early by absentee ballot. Election officials must receive the ballot on or before Election Day. This way of voting is increasingly popular. It avoids any wait at voting stations. But there are also questions about the security of absentee ballots against the possibility of cheating.

Special English Anniversary


Special English will celebrate its forty-fifth anniversary next week. Here is Bob Doughty with the story.

BOB DOUGHTY: Special English began on October nineteenth, nineteen-fifty-nine. VOA officials wanted a program to communicate with English learners. They wanted a way for people to get to know the language and, at the same time, learn about the United States and world events.

The writing is limited as much as possible to a list of about one thousand five hundred words. Our word book is online at voaspecialenglish-dot-com. Another way that Special English is different, as you can hear, is the speed. The rate is about one third slower than standard English as spoken on VOA.

Some language experts thought the programs would be too simple or not make sense. But listeners proved these experts wrong.

Listeners of this program know that we answer questions on the air about American life. Usually we choose one question per week. But next Tuesday, on the forty-fifth anniversary of Special English, we are going to present a special American Mosaic. We are going to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that we get. The answers will also appear at So be sure to listen Tuesday at this same time for our special American Mosaic.

Queen Latifah

The newest album from Queen Latifah contains none of the hip-hop music that made her famous. Instead, she performs jazz, blues, soul and pop songs from the past. The collection is called "The Dana Owens Album." Faith Lapidus explains.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Queen Latifah became Queen Latifah in college. Before that, she was Dana Owens, the name her parents gave her. Queen Latifah is famous as a rapper. But here she sings “Hello Stranger,” a hit by Barbara Lewis in nineteen sixty-three.


Queen Latifah says she got the idea for her new album after looking at her own record collection. She says she wanted to record some songs that had influenced her. One of them is “Simply Beautiful” by Al Green. He joins her on the recording.


Queen Latifah is also an actress. She stars with comedian Jimmy Fallon in the new action movie "Taxi."

A few years ago Queen Latifah sang a famous Billy Strayhorn song in one of her movies. She recorded it again for her new album. We leave you with Queen Latifah -- or Dana Owens -- and a song called “Lush Life.”



This is Doug Johnson.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Paul Thompson was the producer. Our engineer was Jim Sleeman.