Gwinnett’s first election season offering voter assistance in both English and Spanish officially begins next week, and the county says it’s ready.
Or “listo,” if you’d rather.
“Everything that we have done, we have done it 100 percent,” said Sylvia King, who was hired by the elections division to help lead the transition to bilingual voter assistance. “So we are ready for elections.”
In Dec. 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau gave Gwinnett County — which has a population that’s more than 20 percent Hispanic — a new designation under Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act. It 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.
“Ballot access” includes everything from registration forms and website information to Spanish-speaking poll workers.
It’s been more than a year since the designation was handed down and Gwinnett has long been compliant with several aspects of its mandate, but it has not yet had a general election under the new rules.
That changes Monday, when advance in-person voting starts for the primary and non-partisan races that will be decided on May 22.
Voters who show up at the Gwinnett elections office in Lawrenceville — which is the county’s only advance voting location for the first two weeks of the early period — will start the process like normal. But once they insert their cards into the voting machines, they will be asked if they want a ballot in English or Spanish.
If they need assistance, they’ll be able to ask a poll worker who speaks English. Or one who speaks Spanish.
Election director Lynn Ledford told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year that the goal was to find 350 Spanish-speaking poll workers in all, a number that would provide two such workers at each of the county’s 156 voting precincts as well as about two dozen more to staff the eight locations the county eventually opens during early voting.
She said Thursday that the county was “on target” for primary season poll workers.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” Ledford said. “It’s been a big challenge but we’ve had the support we need to make it successful.”
Primaries for two county commission seats, two school board seats and several state legislature seats, as well as a handful of local judicial races, are on Gwinnett ballots this spring. Party primaries for the Georgia governor’s race are as well.
Find bilingual sample ballots for each party below.
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