GAINESVILLE – The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) has contacted the Secretary of State’s Office and the Hall County Board of Elections regarding an alleged incident that happened during early voting at the Hall County Government Center.
GALEO said in a news release that a voter experienced discrimination and intimidation while lining up to cast an early ballot:
“On Wednesday, October 17, at approximately 4pm, a local Hall County resident, who speaks Spanish as his first language, was seeking to vote early.
The voter overheard two of his fellow voters speaking Spanish and asked one to stand in as his translator so that he could better understand his ballot options. The voter agreed and signed all required oaths in order to help his fellow citizen vote.
While speaking Spanish, both voters were verbally attacked by a white female voter, who loudly stated the two were not allowed to use translation help as it was 'electioneering.'
When the voters sought help from poll workers, they were instead faced with a County Marshal, who insisted they could not seek translation support until inside the polling place.
With support from ACLU of Georgia, GALEO has contacted both the Secretary of State and Hall County Board of Elections with a request to investigate this incident as quickly as possible. GALEO is also seeking for Hall County to re-train all poll workers to ensure they understand the rights of all voters to bring a translator with them to the polls."
Tom Smiley, Chairman of the Hall County Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview that he was told the County Marshal mentioned by GALEO is an authorized translator who was trying to help several people.
Smiley said, “One of the marshals, who also served as a translator for one of the voters, was explaining that while you’re in line, according to the Georgia Election Code, you’re not permitted to talk about ballot initiatives or ballots or candidates while you are in line.”
Smiley explained what he had been told about the situation.
“What we understand is two voters in line had some discussion about some issues…it had nothing to do with our Hall County election staff, or any of our polling managers. It was simply some behavior that was objectionable.”
In the release, GALEO said they were asking that all Hall County poll workers be retrained. Smiley responded by saying his team of election workers is very well trained.
“I would take great exception to the insinuation that our poll workers aren’t appropriately trained or prepared.”
Smiley said he had received a letter from the ACLU regarding the complaint. He said the incident remains under investigation.