There are nearly 70,000 Spanish-speaking people living in Wichita, many who could head to the polls next month. As the midterm elections draw near, more Spanish speakers are being made aware of the election process and learning about who is running for office.
A group of Hispanic women recently participated in a Spanish voter training session at Wichita’s Peace and Social Justice Center to help with that effort.
Organizer Graciela Martinez sees the training as a way to inform people.
“If we got trained we could pass the voice, put the voice to them, especially the ones who don't speak English," Martinez says.
With notepads and pencils in hand, the women are ready to learn whatever they can about the details of voting to share with other Spanish speakers.
“So this was an initiative from Graciela,” says activist and teacher Claudia Amaro. “She called me and asked me for some help on understanding the system and how elections work so she can encourage other people to vote in the community.”
Amaro explains to the group in Spanish that there are two important dates to be aware of: Oct. 16, the deadline to register to vote in Sedgwick County, and Nov. 6, Election Day.
Araceli Amador asks several questions about voting. She has a son in the military who is out of the country and learns he’ll have to use an absentee ballot.
Activist Janice Bradley, who is sitting in on the training session, is co-chair of the Peace and Social Justice Education Fund.
“I’ve been working with Claudia for years,” Bradley says. "We’ve been working to register voters in the previous election and we’ve just been talking about how people need to be educated and motivated to vote and so Claudia has been on it. I’ve been working on the English side of things but we’re happy to have these women come together and take this work up.”
Amaro explains what could be on a sample ballot and lists some of the national and local races in the November election. She also tells the women about an option that was implemented in September: People can now register to vote in Spanish at KSVotes.org.
Rev. Elizabeth Montes, better known as “Mother Eli,” also takes part in the training.
“I like our freedom to choose the right people to govern this state. That is why this meeting is important,” she says. "It’s important to choose the right people and to get the community to know all these facts that she’s telling and that way they can vote for the right people that are going to do the right thing for the people in need.”
Standing up for people in need is important for all the women at the training. While some of them aren’t able to vote themselves, they want to be sure that Spanish-speaking citizens are able to exercise their rights.
Janice Brady says there are those who are unsure of the process.
“Some people are intimidated by not knowing what’s going on, not knowing the facts,” she says. "Just letting people know that we now have elections every November — odd years are city, even years are state, federal and county. We need to get this information out to people so they can have their voice.”
After the training wraps up, Araceli Amador says how thrilled she is with the event.
"Wow, this is eye-opening because sometimes we don’t know this information," she says. "We just say 'vote,' and we don’t know what this really means for all of us. My skin just got chills just knowing that we can switch the country if we would just know this information. By voting for the right people, oh my God, this has to be known for everyone."