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Latino Activists in Georgia Demand Spanish-Language Ballots

Latino activists in Georgia say Spanish-speaking voters should be granted ballots and voting aids in their native tongue.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and New York-based LatinoJustice are pressing Gwinnett and Hall counties in Georgia to provide Spanish ballots and other voting materials.

The groups, according to the AJC, say a provision of the Voting Rights Act — intended for Puerto Ricans — should also apply to all Spanish-speaking voters in the state.

“It’s about enforcing the Voting Rights Act and ensuring voters – U.S. citizens – have access to voting, to the full extent that the Voting Rights Act provides,” Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO’s executive director told AJC.

While the activists push for Spanish-language voting, others say the focus should be on learning English in the first place.

“Imagine voting for candidates when you have never really heard them speak (in your language),” David Hancock, co-chairman of the United Tea Party of Georgia, told AJC. “They don’t know what the candidate’s saying. They don’t know what the candidate’s promising. They can’t ask them questions.”

While the provision in the Voting Rights Act is intended of Puerto Ricans, making ballots available in Spanish would make voting easier for the areas’ sizable Hispanic population.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are about 85,000 people of Puerto Rican descent in Georgia, including more than 13,000 in Gwinnett and 900 in Hall. There is no specific minimum number of Puerto Ricans who must be present to trigger the provision, according to Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, an attorney for the civil rights group Advancement Project.

But making bilingual language ballots available could benefit many more people. Gwinnett is home to an estimated 171,000 Latinos, or one out of every five residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than a quarter of Hall residents are Latino.

In response the the activists’ demands, Hall County attorney William Blalock, according to AJC, said the county is not required to provide Spanish ballots, and Gwinnett county officials said they are waiting for instruction from the state on the matter.

If the counties do not provide the Spanish-language ballots the groups demand, GALEO is considering filing a lawsuit, according to AJC.

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