Ballot Translation Issues Surface In Georgia

Ballot Translation Issues Surface In Georgia

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (“GALEO”) has accused Hall County, Georgia, of discriminating against a Spanish-speaking voter, but county officials said that the voter was violating a law that bans discussion of politics or ballot measures too close to the polls.

GALEO asserted that the Spanish-speaking voter overheard other voters in line speaking Spanish and asked one to serve as his translator. Under the Voting Rights Act, voters are permitted to have a translator with them at the polls.

According to GALEO, the Spanish-speaking voters then were confronted by another voter in line who believed that the prospective translator was telling the original Spanish-speaking voter how to vote.

Lori Wurtz, Hall County’s elections director, and Tom Smiley, the chairman of the elections board, said that it appeared that the issue was not that the voter was seeking a translator, since voters can bring a translator or alternatively request that one is provided for them, but rather that the Spanish-speaking voters were discussing what was on the ballot, which is prohibited at polling places under Georgia state law.

Smiley added that the Spanish-speaking voter still was able to cast a ballot using a translator.

GALEO called on Hall County to retrain its poll workers about a voter’s right to have a translator, but Smiley stated that Hall County poll workers already were well-trained.

Smiley concluded: “I take great exception to just a statement that we need retraining because this event did not indicate any need for retraining.”