LatinoJustice PRLDEF and GALEO Send Follow up Letter and Request to Meet with Gwinnett County Officials Seeking Compliance with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act
Contact: John Garcia, 212-739-7513, firstname.lastname@example.org; ; Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director, GALEO, 678-691-1086
October 4, 2017 (Atlanta, GA)- LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Georgia Association a Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), sent follow up joint Recommendation Letters and a formal Request to Meet as a follow up to their joint Notice Letters and Georgia Open Records Act Requests sent on July 18, 2017 to the Gwinnett County Board of Elections and all municipalities within Gwinnett County, to remind all municipalities within Gwinnett County to adhere to the mandates required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which require the County and every municipality within the County to provide Spanish language election information, materials and assistance.
Section 203 of the VRA mandates that election officials and staff in the covered jurisdiction must provide complete, accurate and adequate language assistance including, “any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots.” After LatinoJustice and GALEO sent joint letters on October 27, 2015 and Nov. 5, 2015 and subsequent advocacy by LatinoJustice PRLDEF to the U.S. Department of Justice, Gwinnett County was designated as a county required to provide access to Spanish language translation and materials in compliance with Section 203 of the VRA on Dec. 5, 2016. Gwinnett County, and every municipality within the County, now has an immediate legal obligation to provide all voting materials in both English and Spanish.
Joanna E. Cuevas Ingram, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF again noted, “Federal law is clear on this. The county and all municipalities within the county are required to provide complete, accurate and adequate language assistance, election information and materials to Spanish speaking citizens seeking to register to vote on an equal basis with all that is provided to English speaking voters, today, so that no eligible voter is disenfranchised.”
The letter seeking compliance with Section 203 of the VRA, is directed to the Gwinnett County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, cites the VRA and highlights concerns with inadequate translation and assistance with election information, including information online. The letter also recommends that Gwinnett County, and all municipalities within Gwinnett County avoid costly voting rights litigation by scheduling a meeting together with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, GALEO, community members and leaders immediately to ensure adequate translation assistance and translation of all materials to come into compliance with Section 203 now, well before any municipal election takes place in 2017.
Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO, observed, “Right now, we are concerned that despite repeated requests to meet formally with us to learn about our concerns and recommendations, the municipalities of Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Braselton, Loganville, and Lilburn, Georgia, within Gwinnett County, may not be in compliance with the VRA. Although we appreciate their attempt to translate, unfortunately, as recently as today, several of these municipalities, which contain valuable information on upcoming municipal elections on November 7, contained mistranslated and incomplete translations.
“Further, several jurisdictions, including Gwinnett County itself, appear to continue to use an automated translation tool, despite being informed repeatedly of the fact that automated machine translations are discouraged by the USDOJ, and being informed, yet again, of this fact, by our Notice Letter sent on July 18, of this year. We know that these translations are not accurate, cause confusion and place additional burdens on access to voting. Equally disturbing, it appears all cities and the County itself are still using an outdated bilingual voter registration form and instructions from 2006, which specifically ask for all responses provided to be provided in English in order to register to vote. We want to raise awareness of the situation in order to ensure Latino voters have their rights protected for the upcoming local elections.”
LatinoJustice PRLDEF and GALEO welcome the opportunity to meet with Gwinnett County and all municipalities within Gwinnett County to discuss best implementation practices, and hope to meet with both Gwinnett County and all municipalities together, to ensure compliance, within the next two weeks.
Voters who are currently experiencing problems in access to voting and/or problems with local government assistance in voting in Spanish, should contact GALEO at 1-888-54GALEO (1-888-544-2536).
You can download a copy of the Letters and Records Request here.