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Election officials OK bilingual ballots for Hall County
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Following the lead of Gwinnett County, the Hall County Board of Elections and Voter Registration approved making bilingual access ballots and materials available to Hispanic voters.

Board members voted 2-1 along party lines at their regular meeting Tuesday to approve making bilingual election material available.

The action comes four months after the U.S. Census Bureau applied a new designation to Gwinnett County requiring it to become the first county in Georgia to offer bilingual ballots.

Elections Board member Kim Copeland and Gala Sheats, two Democrats, voted in favor of the action. Ken Cochran, a Republican, was the dissenting vote.

Copeland told The Times that after Gwinnett went to bilingual ballots, it would be “inevitable” that Hall County would follow.

“Hopefully we can save the taxpayers money from unnecessary lawsuits,” Copeland said.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, hailed the action taken by Hall election officials. He called it “an important step” in making sure that Hall County Latino voters get to exercise their right to vote, “regardless of language barriers.”

GALEO has cited provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act in lobbying for bilingual voting material in Gwinnett and Hall counties. 

“GALEO will gladly work with Hall County to implement processes that will benefit the growing Latino electorate and ensure Spanish language access for voting is done in a thoughtful and efficient manner for the voters and for the county,” Gonzalez said.

Copeland said funding of the bilingual voting material would have to be “hashed out.” He said it would likely be implemented next year.

Gonzalez predicted that the implementation of bilingual voting materials will lead to the Latino electorate becoming “more engaged.”

A section of the Voting Rights Act mandates providing bilingual ballots if more than 5 percent or 10,000 citizens of voting age in a particular jurisdiction are members of a single-language minority where English fluency is not common.

Daily news editor Clark Leonard contributed to this article.

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