Having a say | CraigDailyPress.com

Having a say

Candidates could do more to reach out to Hispanic, Latino voters, local says

Bridget Manley

— Voting isn’t only Rachel Flores’ right and responsibility.

It’s also a way for her to take a stand on issues that matter to her.

“If we don’t vote, if we’re just sitting, (then) nobody hears us,” she said.

Flores, who has lived in Craig for 19 years, was born and raised in the United States, but her grandparents came to the U.S. from Mexico.

Flores seems to takes the opportunity seriously. She votes in every election and does her homework before going to the polls, researching the candidates and the issues that will appear on the ballot.

Determining how many members of Moffat County’s Hispanic and Latino population are eligible to vote is difficult to track because voter registration forms ask only whether potential voters are U.S. citizens.

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Some Colorado counties are mandated to provide bilingual ballots.

“But we haven’t been mandated to do that,” said Lila Herod, Moffat County chief deputy clerk, at least “not yet.”

Whether a county must provide ballots in more than one language depends on whether census data shows the county has a significant population of non-English speakers.

“The best thing for them to do is to bring somebody with them that speaks the language and that can assist them, because we don’t have (the ballot) in a second language,” Herod said.

A local multicultural organization is planning to help other Hispanic voters make informed decisions.

On Oct. 29, Integrated Community will offer materials in Spanish about various Election Day topics, from explanations of the ballot issues to polling place information.

Major issues

Tatiana Achcar, who recently took over as Integrated Community executive director, said she hasn’t been in the area long enough to gauge what values the local Hispanic community holds.

However, she identified one issue taking prominence at the national level: immigration.

“Obviously, the No. 1 concern of the Latino community nationwide tends to be immigration policy and the talks of the comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.

Many Latino families have members who haven’t been able to obtain legalization.

“It really affects the whole family,” she said. “I think many people are looking for a viable solution, a political solution, to the problem.”

And the results of the upcoming election, for president and Congress, could affect the overall direction of U.S. immigration policy.

Emdruro Agala, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, said the economy is one of his primary concerns.

“I think the economy is real bad now,” he said.

Still, he added, its better than it is in Mexico.

He also thinks more can be done to help Hispanics living in America.

“We are Mexicans,” he said. “We need something to help us to : to live here better.”

Just exactly what that would include, however, is a question he doesn’t have an answer to.

Agala said he thinks he is registered to vote and wants to cast his ballot this year.

Flores, who plans to vote in this year’s election, is worried about the economy, too. She said making sure middle class workers can earn a decent salary is a main concern for her this year.

“If that’s taken care of, then everything else should fall into place,” she said.

Making a decision

Although early voting and mail-in voting currently are available, Flores still is considering the candidates and doesn’t plan to vote until Nov. 4 – Election Day.

Normally, Flores votes Republican. However, making a decision on the presidential candidates may prove difficult for her this year.

“So far, this time it seems kind of close,” she said. “They both have good issues.”

But ultimately, her background doesn’t heavily influence the way she casts her vote.

“I look at the whole picture,” she said, “instead of just saying I want to vote for him because he goes for the Hispanic (vote), or I’m not going to vote for him because he doesn’t.”

On the other hand, she thinks candidates could do more to reach out to her demographic.

“It seems like this year, they really hadn’t got out and talked very much to the Hispanic (community),” she said. “It seems different this year.”

Her conversations with friends and relatives have supported her view. Some members of the local Hispanic community feel candidates aren’t interested in the Hispanic vote.

“I think if (the candidates) would do more and try to, I think more Hispanics would vote,” Flores said.

During these conversations with family and friends, she’s found that some Hispanic voters would like to see candidates reaching out to voters of all different ethnicities. Furthermore, she said, some of these voters would like to see campaign ads and materials presented in Spanish.

The latter concern isn’t an issue for Flores, who reads campaign materials in English.

“I’m being satisfied,” she said. “I am getting information, (but) I guess they’re not, really.”