Franklin County Latino Population Wants More Redistricting Information In Spanish
By Johanna Bejarano
Franklin County started the hearings for redrawing electoral district boundaries, and the Latino population wants more information available in Spanish. The redistricting committee began public hearings on Tuesday in Pasco. In the middle of litigation regarding the violation of the Washington Voting Rights Act 2018, the committee is working on the electoral district maps that it will present next week.
The committee members remarked that they would listen to community recommendations, not discuss the litigation. They will also review the current map, look at the Census data, and make determinations according to the Washington State Law.
Felix Vargas, who is appointed for the redistricting process, expressed his perspective. “We are not picking winners we should not pick winners we should not pick losers we should follow the law we should level the playing field but every citizen every voter has an equal opportunity to elect his or her candidate to be commissioner.”
Displaying map options during the meeting before the public voiced its opinions disturbed some citizens. Another concern was the apparent lack of information regarding the County data necessary for working on the task entrusted to them.
According to the committee members, they presented the map options as ideas to start the discussion. They remarked, there are no drawn maps officially presented.
An aspect that stood out was the repeated request to hold meetings and provide information in Spanish. Some residents think that holding meetings only in English in a county with a Latino majority deprives community members from participating and presenting their views.
“I keep hearing that people are not getting information. So, if I am somebody speaking Spanish, how can I get this information that needs to be provided. If we are trying to reach the Latino community, how can I access that? Is it being accessible in Spanish too?” said Israel Delamora.
Translation services will be available during the hearings. However, it seems not to be enough. Some people reported feeling intimidated as one of the aspects that could prevent Latinos from speaking in public.
“When you translate from English to Spanish there is the intimidation. Let say all folks you are listening to us. Estamos hablando en español y tuvieran que poner atención a lo que estaba diciendo el que está hablando ¿Qué está diciendo? ¿Se lo están traduciendo al inglés? You will be lost, and you will be angry at some point because you do not understand what is going on”, said Gabriel Portugal.
For Latino community members, opening spaces that create trust and allowing them to express their voice in Spanish is key. “We are going to go to a meeting. Vamos a ir a una junta en la que se habla puro español. Qué bien, vamos a poder decir lo que quiera, lo que puedo, como digo, como hablo, that is a factor that should be take in consideration”, added Portugal.
Public hearings continue throughout the week in Connell and Mesa. If the committee follows the recommendations, it will schedule meetings in Spanish in Central or East Pasco. It would allow non-English speakers to share their ideas freely in their language.
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