Gwinnett sends first-ever batch of bilingual letters to local voters

Gwinnett County sent out its first-ever batch of bilingual letters to voters last week, a significant milestone in its mission to comply with a new federal designation that requires it to better serve Spanish-speaking residents come election time.

The roughly 12,000 letters mailed Friday by the Gwinnett County Voter Registrations and Elections Division notified voter in Lilburn and Snellville that city polling places were changing for November’s election.

Voters in Lilburn, which has two city council seats up for grabs, will now cast their ballots at the new city hall and library building at 340 Main St. Residents of Snellville, which will have three city council seats on November's ballot, will now vote at the Snellville Senior Center located at 2350 Oak Road.

In December, the U.S. Census Bureau made Gwinnett the only county in Georgia designated as a "language minority jurisdiction" under the federal Voting Rights Act. That designation requires jurisdictions to provide bilingual ballot access if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age are members of a single language minority and have difficulty speaking English.

Gwinnett is home to an estimated 171,000 Latinos, or one out of every five residents, according to the latest census estimates. A recent study released by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials estimated that Gwinnett County had more than 44,000 registered Latino voters last November, a number that accounted for 18 percent of Georgia's total Latino electorate.

Gwinnett County does not currently have any elections scheduled for November but most cities within the county do.

The county's recent mailings come less than a month after two Latino advocacy groups sent letters raising questions about the efforts of Gwinnett County and several cities to comply with the federal designation. The chief complaints from GALEO and New York-based LatinoJustice concerned government websites that the groups said provided plenty of election information in English but little or no such information in Spanish.

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