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DeKalb becomes first county to voluntarily offer voting info in Korean, Spanish

By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News Talk #atlanta-ga

DeKalb County released voting materials and resources in Korean and Spanish on Thursday, making it the first Georgia county to do so voluntarily, officials said.

In partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, Georgia’s third most populous county translated sample ballots, frequently asked questions about voting, absentee ballot guides and drop box location maps into both languages.

“It’s a historic win for advocates working across and in the intersection of immigrants and voting rights,” Stephanie Cho, executive director of the nonpartisan nonprofit group, said during a Thursday news conference.

Gwinnett County was the only county to previously offer voting information in another language —Spanish. It’s required to under federal law due to its high percentage of Spanish-speaking residents. No sample ballots in Georgia have ever been officially translated into Korean, Cho said.

According to the most recent Census data, roughly 6.3% of DeKalb’s population identifies as Asian, while 8.6% of the population is Hispanic. The Census does not have data on the percentage of DeKalb’s population that primarily speaks a language other than English. Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta estimates that percentage to be more than a third of the Hispanic community and nearly half of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Georgia.

This will help folks who need it,” DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson said during the conference. “Voting leads to economic development, more community participation and a quality of life that we’ve never had in our community. This is the first step.”

The translated materials will be made available at polling stations, online at DeKalbVotes.com and via a multilingual voter hotline run by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta. The hotline provides information in nine Asian languages and is accessible by calling 1-888-274-8683.

Soon Hyung Heo, a Brookhaven resident who teaches Korean traditional instruments and singing, spoke during the conference about how the translated materials will make her more confident at the polls.

“Every year I am voting, but there’s a little bit of a heaviness in my heart because the system has always been a little difficult,” she said through a translator. “I wish things were in Korean, and this opportunity means so much to me.”

As of Tuesday, more than 162,000 early votes and an additional 106,000 absentee ballots were cast in DeKalb. During the entirety of 2016′s early voting period, the county recorded 193,115 early votes, including absentee ballots.

For future elections, Cho said DeKalb will work to expand the translation services to other Asian languages, such as Hindi, Chinese and Vietnamese. Select voting materials have already been translated into other Asian languages at www.advancingjustice-atlanta.org.

Early voting is available at 12 locations in DeKalb through 7 p.m. Friday. Election day is Nov. 3.