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DeKalb Elections Board discusses ways to make voting more accessible

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DeKalb Elections Board discusses ways to make voting more accessible

The word "vote" was written in tape on the ground at the Reid H. Cofer Library on Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
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DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb Board of Elections and Registrations at its Jan. 11 meeting heard a presentation on expanding language access at the polls. 

This is following the VOTE resolution passed by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners on Sept.13, 2022, that encouraged the expansion of translation services beyond the requirements of federal law. 

Sabiel Rodriguez, a fellow with the DeKalb Board of Elections, said that listening sessions, census and survey data and comparative analysis provided the objective basis for the report. 

Rodriguez talked about how the research revealed the importance of the “holistic translation approach”.

“So translating all voting materials beyond ballots, [things like voter education or direction/transportation resources] with the aim of ensuring accessibility between the non-English speakers,” Rodriguez said.

The report ended by listing actionable steps and an update from Executive Director Keisha Smith at an estimated $90,000 to $100,000 cost for the translation of printed materials into the top nine languages that best met the parameters. Smith said the elections department is looking to expand into more services but is having trouble finding vendors.

Rodriguez also told Decaturish that this report was, “Not the first step, but an important one to get the ball rolling on recommendations the board can take up and expanding access more generally.” 

The Board also reviewed the FY23 budget and briefly looked forward to FY24. Board Members heaped glowing praise on the improvement of the budget process.  

Director Smith’s regular report went over some of the things the department is working on. Smith announced that Logic and Accuracy testing for primaries is set to begin, and the department is finishing a “qualifying guide” for the county, which should be ready next meeting. Smith said the department is also making sure the ballots of each citizen will accurately represent the changes due to redistricting. This process has been 99% finished, so most of the work now is rechecking to ensure accuracy. The district is well on track to be finished by the Feb. 9 deadline.

An agenda item announcing polling place changes and setting the qualifying period for a potential special election was postponed to the February meeting on the advice of council.

A comprehensive elections calendar can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

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