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Voting barriers continue for Latino community in Idaho

Activists say eliminating those barriers, like language accessibility, has the potential to change the political landscape in Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho — Voting is an integral part of our democracy – but historically, minority communities face obstacles when it comes to filling out their ballots.

Antonio Hernandez works with local nonprofits and government agencies to improve voter turnout within underrepresented communities. He said voting is generational.

“If you don’t have a family that, you know, has done that historically, it’s like being the first time or first person in your family to go to college,” Hernandez said.

Latinos are the fastest-growing voter bloc in the U.S., but there is still work to be done. He said investing money, time and resources into voter education can help break generational gaps and continue increase Latino voting rates.

“Right now, for the most part, voters don't get anything in the mail that has all the information that’s educational information for what's on the ballot,” Hernandez said.

Latinos make up 13% of Idaho’s population and account for 24% of Idaho’s growth over the last decade, according to recent data from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

In 2018, there were roughly 140,200 Idaho Hispanics of voting age. 

“Being able to influence policy is really critical as the largest ethnic minority here in the State of Idaho,” community activist Maria Gonzalez said.

Hispanic turnout increased 6% from the 2014 to the 2018 midterm elections, according to the commission. Gonzalez said it is essential to continue that trend to ensure elected officials in Idaho represent views from every single community.

But Gonzalez said voting barriers persist.

“I think the biggest barrier is lack of information and lack of information for those who prefer or need the information in Spanish to have that information in Spanish,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said election information on official websites, like Idaho’s Secretary of State’s Office, should be in Spanish as well.

The Secretary of State’s Office told KTVB there is no statewide requirement for counties to publish information in any language other than English unless that county meets certain demographic requirements reflected by the U.S. Census.

Right now, Clark County is the only county in Idaho required to publish elected materials in Spanish. Because of voting barriers like language, Hernandez said community outreach is key.

“A big part is just getting the word out and making sure that people know that there’s an election, it’s important and this is how it affects them,” Hernandez said.

En español: Información sobre la votación en Idaho

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