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Local organization working towards increasing civic participation of the Latinx community

Spanish-speaking communities who don't speak English in other Georgia counties are at a disadvantage, explains poll translator Alba Villarreal.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Gwinnett County is considered one of Georgia's largest and most diverse counties. With over half of its population being communities of color, it's the only county in Georgia offering Spanish ballots. 

Spanish-speaking communities who don't speak English in other Georgia counties are at a disadvantage, explains poll translator Alba Villarreal.  

"So, of course, people are discouraged to vote because they're afraid that when they get there, no one is going to help them, they're going to be confused, what if they do something wrong," Villarreal said. 

Villarreal is part of GALEO, a local non-partisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on increasing the civic participation of the Latinx community.

The nonprofit is actively searching for more translators to help make voting easier for people whose first language is not English.

Since starting in 2003, a report done by the nonprofit listed that the Latino electorate has grown by more than 57% since 2016. 

The nonprofit wants to continue increasing Latino voters and offer language assistance to those who need it.

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Since working as a bilingual poll worker for GALEO, Villarreal said that not knowing English discourages voters from going to the polls.  

Villarreal informed 11Alive that in the three elections she's worked in Norcross, only 10 people needed her help. 

She also believes it's because voters whose first language isn't English don't know translators are there to help. That's why, Villarreal explains, GALEO is trying to inform voters that they're there in the first place. 

"We look at the high-density precincts to make sure that we have volunteers that are ready and able to do that. We're knocking on doors, we're having conversations with community members, we are registering people at festivals," CEO of GALEO Impact Fund Jerry Gonzalez said. 

GALEO is pushing for more counties to provide language assistance in both English and Spanish on ballots. 

"That's why we reach out to folks in Spanish media; we reach out to folks in Spanish since there is only one county in the state that provides language assistance in both English and Spanish," Gonzalez said. 

The need for translators is great, Villarreal explains. 

"It's so crucial for translators to be present at the polls because, in counties where language ballot accessibility is not present, the minority communities who speak other languages are immediately at a disadvantage. Immediately. There is only so much external resources can do," Villarreal said. 

GALEO's Election Protection Volunteer program is another way for the community to help during elections. 

"It's a more scaled-back version. It's not a full-day commitment. It's a more accessible way to help the community," Villarreal said. 

Anyone interested in becoming a poll worker can click the link here. 

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