LatinoJustice PRLDEF and GALEO Send Letters to Gwinnett County Municipalities Seeking Compliance with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act
July 21, 2017 (Atlanta, GA)– LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Georgia Association a Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), sent joint Notice Letters and Georgia Open Records Act Requests this week 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 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 recently 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 noted, “Guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice makes very clear that Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) covers all stages of the voting process, and Section 203 applies to all voter registration within Gwinnett County, whether managed by Gwinnett County itself or its municipalities, no matter which level of government is facilitating the process. Federal law and the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) is clear on this. The County and all municipalities within the County are required to provide 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 [GC Section 203 Compliance Letter 071817 LJP GALEO] 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 Open Records Request seeks information about any and all voter registration, election and ballot information and materials developed by Gwinnett County and its municipalities in Spanish from Dec. 5, 2016 through July 18, 2017.
Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO, observed, “Right now, we are concerned that the municipalities of Auburn, Berkeley Lake, Braselton, Loganville, and Lilburn,Georgia, within Gwinnett County, may not be in compliance with the VRA. As recently as this Tuesday, their websites, which contain valuable information on upcoming municipal elections this year, were in English only and they were failing to provide the same information online in Spanish. Some municipalities fail to even offer voter registration forms in Spanish. Where others do, there are still problems. The municipality of Lawrenceville offers a voter registration PDF form in Spanish, but their website still appeared to be in English only. Gwinnett County itself appears to be using an automated Bing translation tool located at the bottom of its webpage, but we had to contact them to find out where it was, and we believe they are not in compliance. The municipalities of Duluth, Norcross, Peachtree Corners, and Sugar Hill similarly attempt to use a Google Translate automated machine option for the election information available on their website, yet automated machine translations such as those developed by Google and Bing are not always accurate, can cause confusion and place additional burdens on access to voting by frustrating equal access to voter information for limited English speaking voters.”
The Letter [GC Section 203 Compliance Letter 071817 LJP GALEO] 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.
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.
You can download a copy the Letters and Records Request below:
In Gwinnett, Latino groups threaten more voting rights litigation, ajc.com, July 26, 2017.
Latino groups, Gwinnett cities dispute Spanish language elections materials compliance,
Gwinnett Daily Post, July 29, 2017.
Georgia Gang, July 30, 2017. Discussed access to election information in Spanish. Conservatives clearly spoke up against the upholding of federal law that mandates this. Take a look around 12:30 in the broadcast.