As it stands now, all Georgians will cast their 2016 votes for president on English-language ballots. While the population of Hispanic voters is growing, it’s not grown enough for Georgia counties to join the 248 counties in 25 states that by law must offer bilingual voting material. But some advocates for Latino and Hispanic voting rights are working on a way around that. To get a language other than English on a ballot, more than 5 percent of voting age citizens in a county must primarily speak that specific language. In Georgia, that hasn’t happened. But the Voting Rights Act makes an exception when it comes to one particular community: Puerto Ricans.
“Native-born Americans that (sic) are educated under American flag schools, whose primary language is not English,” explained Martha Pardo, a lawyer with the civil rights advocacy group Latino Justice, paraphrasing section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, that guarantees Spanish-language ballots and other voter materials to Puerto Ricans. “So anything from ballots, voter guides …”
Pardo, along with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, has requested both Gwinnett and Hall Counties make Spanish-language voting materials available.
Her argument is that more than 13,000 people of Puerto Rican descent live in Gwinnett County. And just over 1,000 live in Hall County. If that doesn’t sound like very many people – the truth is, the numbers may not matter.
“The provision that we are particularly talking about does not have a minimum number of voters that need to meet that threshold.”