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Hall County elections board will study bilingual ballots again
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Sofia Sauseda, 6, looks up at her mother, Maria Palacios, policy analyst and leadership program coordinator with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, during a Hall County Elections Board meeting discussing rescinding a 2017 vote to adopt bilingual ballots for county and state elections. The decision to provide ballots in Spanish was rescinded by a 3-2 vote. The board has decided once again to study implementing bilingual ballots. - photo by David Barnes

Hall County’s elections board has a new committee, the two members of which will look at possible costs and procedures for implementing bilingual ballots, a move that may be mandated with the next Census.

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires that counties with large enough populations of minority groups provide election materials in their population’s native languages. Voters who are not proficient in English have the option to bring a translator with them to the polls.

Hall’s elections board voted last year to reverse plans to provide ballots in Spanish, but now that the busy election season is over, board members said Tuesday that they wanted to devote some time to studying how the county could offer ballots in Spanish.

Board members David Kennedy and Ken Cochran will be on the committee, which was unanimously approved by the board Tuesday.

Board member Craig Lutz asked that the committee’s focus be on procedure, cost and policy if bilingual ballots and voting materials were to be used. Kennedy said because the issue has not been studied too much yet, he wanted to wait to see what came up during the committee’s work rather than limiting the scope of what it could research.

While Lutz approved the broader motion forming the committee, he said he would move to disband the committee later if he felt that members were getting off topic.

“I’ve found that committees that don’t have a narrowly defined focus can easily get off track. … If that happens, I will pull the parliamentary procedure to pull it back and basically rescind it,” Lutz said.

Kennedy said the committee’s goal would be “to figure out what are the issues and what are the costs associated with the issues.” Kennedy took the place on the board previously held by Michelle Sanchez Jones, who was on the previous committee to look at bilingual ballots.

At the end of the meeting, Gainesville resident Maria Palacios thanked the board for looking at how bilingual ballots could be implemented.

“I absolutely love Gainesville, and I love the fact that we’re looking forward. We’re looking forward to increasing access for the residents that make up Gainesville,” Palacios said. “Gainesville is a unique town. … I don’t think we often enough tell each other how much we appreciate each other.”

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