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With more focus on Latino voter turnout, attorney group complains about access
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A voter makes his way into the Lakewood Baptist Church Gainesville V voting precinct Tuesday, July 24, 2018 to cast a ballot in the primary runoff election.

A nonprofit civil rights group has accused Hall County elections officials of non-compliance with a recent federal court order involving the state’s “exact match” voter identification law.  

“In Hall County, Georgia, officials failed to comply with the order issued in litigation regarding the state’s discriminatory exact match scheme,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a press release on Nov. 8. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination, 

That order required all eligible voters in Georgia, including recently naturalized citizens, who provide appropriate identification to be given the right to vote a regular ballot, Clarke added.

“Instead of allowing eligible voters the right to vote, officials subjected certain voters to the burden of going to the county elections office to provide proof of citizenship instead of accepting this documentation at the polling site as explicitly required under the court’s order,” she said. “Moreover, some voters who are limited English proficient were denied their right to receive assistance from a person of their choice. The actions of Hall County officials imposed barriers and restrictions that impaired the rights of minority voters seeking to vote on Tuesday.”

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley, in an email to The Times, said county officials were unaware of any voters burdened by the alleged incidents.

Crumley said an incident at one voting precinct occurred on Tuesday and “revolved around a voter’s proof of identity.” 

“The voter’s identification was verified at the precinct, and their vote was cast on site,” she said. “However, there were people present during this time that caused a disruption at the precinct.”

Crumley said the county elections office would file a report of the incident with the Georgia Secretary of State “asking that the disruption be investigated.”

The matter comes at a time when more focus than ever is being placed on turning out the Latino vote locally.

Vanesa Sarazua, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance GA, a nonpartisan group based in Gainesville, said volunteers with her agency provided transportation to the polls and interpretative help during early voting.

And on Election Day, “There were a ton of Latino voters needing assistance,” Sarazua said.

Transportation to the polls in future elections, particularly for older adults, and also from local workplaces like poultry plants, will be a continued focus in supporting Latino voters, Sarazua said.  

Johnny Varner, chairman for the Hall County GOP’s fourth district, which includes portions of Gainesville, said conservatives have an opportunity to tap a growing Latino voting demographic by highlighting shared values of family and faith.

“People don’t understand that the Hispanics tie themselves to the church quite a bit,” Varner said. “And a lot of people don’t know they’re more a nuclear family than others.”

But connecting with these potential voters, particularly in light of the divisive nature of immigration policy between Republicans and Democrats, can be difficult, Varner acknowledged.

“Who are they?” he asked about those Latinos who might lean to the right.

Arturo Adame, head of the Young Democrats of Hall County, said his own efforts to turn out the vote among Latinos has sometimes been stymied.

“It’s kind of tough,” he said. “There’s not much of a space or platform that exists right now.”

Adame said he had been able to connect with some voters through local Latino businesses, but outreach still “has to grow and has to build.”

There is some mistrust of Democrats in parts of the community, as well, Adame said, because President Barack Obama was seen as the “deporter-in-chief.”

And so Adame said Democrats can’t count on Republican policies or rhetoric on immigration alone to tap Latino voters.

“That is not enough,” he added. “There’s still work that has to be done on top of that.” 

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