Several groups are leading efforts to get residents, particularly from underrepresented communities, registered to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline for the Nov. 6 election.
Hall had 119,330 eligible voters as of Thursday afternoon, and 610 of those voters registered in September, according to Terenda Sargent, registration coordinator with the county’s elections office.
How to register
In person: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville
The Gainesville-based Hispanic Alliance GA will be speaking at local colleges and canvassing in the county, and the group is especially hoping to reach the Puerto Rican community. Vanesa Sarazua, the organization’s founder and executive director, said Puerto Ricans may not even realize they are able to vote in Hall because they have U.S. citizenship.
“They have just come in to the United States from Puerto Rico, and some of them are a little unclear about what their rights are and where they can vote, so we want to try to reach out to them,” Sarazua said.
Bilingual ballots have been considered in Hall but will not be available in November. The Hall County Elections Board voted in January to reverse plans to provide ballots in Spanish, but the board has established a committee to research the cost of offering bilingual ballots. Spanish-speaking voters also have the option of bringing a translator with them to the polls.
A language barrier can deter Latinos from voting and can make it more difficult for them to find the information they need to make informed voting decisions, Sarazua said.
“Whether we recognize it or not, there are citizens in our county who do not speak English, so we need to accommodate them somehow and help them be able to vote on that day,” she said.
Angela Middleton, an educator and community organizer, is involved with voter registration through the justice and advocacy ministries group at her church, St. Paul United Methodist Church on Summit Street. She said with the area’s increasing population comes a larger voter base that should be invested in local politics.
“Gainesville is growing economically, and the job opportunities here are bringing in a lot of new people,” Middleton said. “People that are moving state to state, city to city, oftentimes forget to register to vote.”
Presidential elections may have a larger turnout, but local elected officials often have more influence over voters’ day-to-day lives, so it is also important to register before local elections, she said.
“If we want to be a part of the process of the things that are important to us in the area that we live, then we must vote on the local level,” she said.
The most prominent race on the ballot Nov. 6 is a contest between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp for governor. But several local races are also up for a vote, including the District 1 seat for the Hall County Board of Commissioners and a position on the Hall County Board of Education.
Building 58 is a nonpartisan political action group that formed about nine months ago. The group, which especially wants to reach minority populations, will be registering voters at locations in Hall on Saturdays in September.
“One of the main barriers people are facing is they feel like their vote doesn’t count,” Brooke Burt, an organizer with Building 58, said. “Especially recently, you can see that small numbers make a big difference in elections, but especially for communities where people have been told their voice doesn’t matter, we’re trying to overcome a lot of historical barriers, too.”
Voters can check their registration status or register to vote on the Georgia Secretary of State website. They can also register at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.