Judge throws out lawsuit about Gwinnett County Spanish absentee ballots

There is growing concern about accessible voting in the Hispanic and Latino community — specifically in Gwinnett County.

Several Hispanic and Latino organizations say there are not sufficient voter resources for Spanish-speaking citizens in Gwinnett County, which has one of the largest Spanish-speaking populations in the entire state.

According to census data, 21% of people in Gwinnett County are Hispanic or Latino.

Health experts say that population is disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and civic leaders say that’s all the more reason Latino voters should utilize absentee tools.

"In the context of COVID-19, asking people to go and visit in person and request a ballot puts in danger a community," executive director of the Latino Community Fund Gilda Pedraza said.

"Under section 203, Gwinnett County is the only county required by federal law to provide items in English and Spanish," GALEO civic engagement group CEO Jerry Gonzales said.

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That’s why those running groups that advocate for civic engagement in the Latino community are disheartened by a federal judge’s recent decision.

Federal law requires Gwinnett County to print election materials in both English and Spanish.

Gonzalez says that did not happen when the Secretary of State’s office sent out information earlier this year.

"This should be in place now. Any local or state agency that is adhering to section 203 of the voting rights act should comply with federal law and that’s why we disagree with the judge’s ruling," he said.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled state and Gwinnett County officials did not violate federal law when English-only applications went out. 

That judge said those who did not receive Spanish ballots were able to get them from the county.


The judge also said a Spanish ballot application is available on the county website. 

Pedraza says that’s not enough.

"Even if people want to request it online, Gwinnett County doesn’t have the site in Spanish so you wouldn’t even be able to request it, or to know that it is available because there hasn’t been any concerted effort from the county," she said.

Several groups who brought about the lawsuit said they'll consider other options, such as an appeal to the judge's dismissal, meantime, people like Gonzalez and Pedraza are making sure Spanish speakers who need help this election received it.

"We have a number of tutorials in Spanish and Portuguese available on our website, Latinosfordemocracy.net," Pedraza explained.

Pedraza also says the GALEO hotline provides Spanish speakers with resources over the phone. 

That number is 888-54-GALEO or 888-544-2536.

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