Georgians with limited English proficiency will now have greater access to interpreters while voting. In a court settlement Thursday, a federal judge approved an order that invalidates part of a Georgia law that limits assistance for voters to immediate family, caretakers or people who live in the same voting precinct.
The lawsuit, filed by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta on behalf of a Georgia voter, argued that rules are different for state and federal elections, which limits voting access to limited English proficiency residents.In federal elections, anyone is allowed to provide interpretation assistance at the poll, so long as it is not the voter's employer or a member of the voter's union. Phi Nguyen is the litigation director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta. She said her organization would not be able to provide assistance in the Dec. 4 runoff election unless this law was changed, because there are no federal candidates on the ballot. "The vast majority of the individuals that we helped in November are people that we would not be able to help again if we hadn't fought this law and won," Nguyen said. During the Nov. 6 midterm, Nguyen said her group trained about 45 interpreters and assisted nearly 70 voters with the process of casting their ballots. The court order said the settlement comes "in order to avoid the burden, delays, and uncertainties of litigation and to efficiently and expeditiously promote the parties’ shared goal of ensuring that Georgia’s voters are afforded the rights guaranteed by the requirements of the Voting Rights Act." While this lawsuit is part of a flurry of action targeting virtually every part of Georgia's election system, Nguyen said this one in particular focuses on helping members of the Asian, Latinx and immigrant communities in the state.
"This is a victory that we think is especially a victory for the communities that we're serving, and have been overlooked, I think, by some of the other big lawsuits that are out right now," Nguyen said. "This was really something that nobody else was paying attention to."
Interim Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden has been instructed to notify Georgia's 159 county elections officials of the changes by 5 p.m. Thursday.