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Every registered voter in Salt Lake County will likely see bilingual ballots, voter registration forms and other election materials beginning in January, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said at an advisory council meeting Tuesday.

The decision was based on a mandate by the federal government, which in October determined there were enough community pockets of Spanish-language speakers in the county that the requirement kicked in under the Voting Rights Act.

"Right now we're favoring a bilingual approach and it's the Department of Justice's preference to do that," Swensen said. "It provides individuals [the chance] to choose whichever language in private so that they don't have to reveal themselves having difficulty with English."

The Latino Community Advisory Committee — which consists of state lawmakers, community leaders, attorneys and two Spanish-language media outlets — met for the first time Tuesday to iron out details on how to comply with federal requirements.

Swensen said she expects to have several more meetings with the group before all plans are finalized. On Tuesday, there were 15 members at the meeting.

To date, the county's election website has been translated into Spanish and the staff in Swensen's office has begun translating everything from voter registration documents, confirmation notices and vote-by-mail applications. She said there may be more than a half-dozen document templates in all to translate.

But the meeting also touched on voter outreach in the Latino communities and how to improve dismal election turnout among a group that makes up 17.1 percent of the Salt Lake County population.

According to census data released in September, turnout among Latinos statewide was 18.9 percent of registered voters compared to 40.5 percent of registered white voters.

Frank Cordova of the Salt Lake City-based Centro Civico group, said turnout is closer to the national level in some precincts within the county but also said voter registration has been hurt by some grocery stores barring registration drives on their property.

Cordova said that those who don't vote tend to be more mobile and are less likely to re-register at their new address.

Swensen said she would like to tackle the problem by pushing provisional voting — which would allow them to vote at their new polling place. She also said voting by mail might be a good option for that community.

Mark Alvarez, a local lawyer who focuses on immigration issues, said Swensen's office needs to adopt a marketing campaign for voters.

"They're ready to be engaged," Alverez said. "They just haven't been given the right invitation."

The clerk's office is leaning heavily on San Diego as an example of how to comply with the statutes in the Voting Rights Act. Part of that has included getting input from the community, which is why Swensen pulled together the Latino Community Advisory Committee.

Swensen said she expects the group to meet several times to iron out culturally sensitive translations for elections materials and ways to staff polling places with bilingual speakers.

In October, Salt Lake County became one of 248 political jurisdictions that had more than 5 percent of its voting age citizens falling under the limited English categorization and the illiteracy rate of those citizens is higher than the national illiteracy rate.

Twitter: @davemontero