Gwinnett may make voting materials available in Korean, Vietnamese

Gwinnett County commissioners are considering making voting materials available in languages other than Spanish and English — with Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese being the most likely languages added to voters guides and sample ballots.

Gwinnett is federally required to provide materials in Spanish because of the number of people who speak it with limited or no English proficiency. DeKalb County, for the first time in last year’s general election and runoff, provided materials in Spanish and Korean.

DeKalb was not under a mandate to do so. Gwinnett would also be adding additional languages voluntarily.

Erik Burton, who led the translation efforts in DeKalb, told Gwinnett commissioners Tuesday that the process was “not without hiccups.” But he called it a tremendous first step to creating language equity.

“It was worth it,” Burton said. “We had families crying” because they were able to cast ballots for the first time.

LaVita Tuff, the policy director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, said that group’s research shows Gwinnett should have voting materials in all three additional languages, because nearly half of residents in some Census tracts speak those languages with no English proficiency.

About a quarter of Gwinnett residents were born somewhere other than the United States.

Three members of the county’s elections board participated in the meeting and expressed support for adding additional languages. In DeKalb, the translated materials included voter guides and information about advance voting in addition to sample ballots.

Ballots residents used to vote would continue to be in only Spanish and English, but they could use the sample ballots as a guide.

Jasper Watkins, a county commissioner, said county leadership will have to continue considering changes like this as Gwinnett’s population continues to diversify.

“Things will change, they have to,” he said. “They’re going to have to reflect the population, and they will.”