Voters in Gwinnett County, Georgia who speak Spanish as their first language, are receiving key election materials in English even though these citizens have a right to receive voting materials in Spanish because the county is covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. This illegally disadvantages the thousands of Spanish-speaking Gwinnett County voters whose English skills are limited; several plaintiffs represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and co-counsel Bryan Sells argue in an appeal filed the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. today.
The lawsuit, originally filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, New Georgia Project, Common Cause and two Gwinnett County voters who are limited in their English proficiency, is challenging Georgia’s online absentee-ballot portal, online voter precinct cards, press releases and other critical election information and voting materials provided to nursing homes for only being available in English.
To access a Spanish-language version of the Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections’ website, individuals must first navigate and scroll through an English-only version to locate and click on a small box in the bottom right-hand corner that says ‘English.’ Even if Spanish-speaking individuals are able to reach the computer-generated Spanish translation, it is poorly written and riddled with errors that misinform voters and could prevent them from being able to navigate the election process.
“Refusing to provide bilingual election materials is a form of voter suppression affecting citizens whose English skills are limited but want to cast their ballot and vote like everyone else,” said John Powers, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The right of Gwinnett County’s Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens to vote is protected by federal law and they deserve an equal opportunity to participate in our democracy. Election officials cannot deny access to bilingual election materials to these citizens.”
As a result of the hard to access and poor translation, as well as lack of available election materials in Spanish, Spanish-speaking voters had little to no opportunity to find out how to vote by mail, which has a particularly significant impact on voters who are at risk due to COVID-19. In addition, these voters could not access voter registration, voter education, and election protection efforts in Georgia.
The plaintiffs’ brief also states that when the Georgia secretary of state provides election materials to Gwinnett County voters in English, those materials must also be provided to voters in Spanish. Election officials’ regular programming to Gwinnett County voters, such as ballots and other voting materials, also must be made available in English and Spanish.
The appeal, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, et al. v. Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections, was filed after Judge William M. Ray of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed the plaintiff’s original lawsuit.
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