Gwinnett County will host two hiring events this week for bilingual poll workers. It’s trying to comply with a federal mandate to conduct elections in both English and Spanish.
In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau told Gwinnett County its Spanish-speaking population was large enough it had to ensure they could fully participate in elections.
The time since has brought a number of changes to the Gwinnett’s election processes as the county ensures they’re in line with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
“We now have to have bilingual ballots and balloting materials and voter registration materials available, but also we need bilingual poll officials to help us comply with that federal mandate,” said Lynn Ledford, Gwinnett County’s elections director.
Ledford says Gwinnett’s looking to hire more than 300 poll officials before primary elections in May. So far, more than 130 have applied, but fewer than 40 have been approved for hire.
The county expects compliance to come with about $1 million in start-up costs. So far, Ledford says the county has spent about $700,000 on the effort.
Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said compliance with the federal mandate made a big difference to voters last year when the cities in Gwinnett hired bilingual poll workers for municipal elections.
“They’re U.S. citizens. They’re registered to vote, but their language of dominance was Spanish. And they were voting for the first time because they felt comfortable in that process,” Gonzalez said.
The two hiring events are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Norcross and Saturday morning in Centerville.
The county is asking interested residents to apply online prior to the events.