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The Gwinnett County Board of Elections rejected a request by two latino rights groups for Spanish-language ballot provision in the county.

Under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, a federal statute, “[w]henever any State or political subdivision [covered by the section] provides registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language.”

“The law covers those localities where there are more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens in a single political subdivision (usually a county, but a township or municipality in some states) who are members of a single minority language group, have depressed literacy rates, and do not speak English very well.”

“Section 203 targets those language minorities that have suffered a history of exclusion from the political process: Spanish, Asian, Native American, and Alaskan Native.”

Moreover, if the Spanish-speaking community in a particular county is Puerto Rican, Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act makes an exception to its 5% threshold requirement.

There are 13,000 Puerto Rican citizens in Gwinnett County and 900 in Hall County. The Voting Rights Act does not specify a minimum number of affected Puerto Rican citizens to trigger the Spanish ballot provision requirement.

Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (“GALEO”) noted that his organization will be pursuing this issue in court.

The board of elections responded that they don’t have enough information to determine on their own whether they must provide Spanish language ballots and will wait for direction from the Secretary of State or a court to do so.

Chair Alice O’Lenick: “If a judge says do this, we’ll do it.”

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