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Scott County to host its first bilingual candidate forum to empower Spanish speaking voters

Quad Cities Interfaith
The Davenport chapter of Excluded and Essential Workers are working to ensure Scott County Latino communities receive support including COVID-19 relief, and also election information.

The bilingual candidate forum is hosted by Quad Cities Interfaith, St. Anthony’s Church and the group Excluded and Essential Workers. To the organizers' knowledge, it's the first time Scott County has hosted a bilingual event in this capacity for candidates to speak about their platforms and also speak with voters. It is free and open to the public.

Gloria Mancilla works as an essential worker (Certified Nursing Assistant) in Davenport. She is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, so she did not receive COVID-19 relief that U.S. citizens did.

Throughout her experiences of trying to persuade decisionmakers to include essential workers like her in funding relief, she realized how much information access was lacking in her community of Latinos and Spanish-speakers. Many felt neglected and continue to feel that way. That's why the three groups decided to organize the bilingual forum for Scott County supervisor candidates.

"The Hispanic community is struggling and has struggled for the longest time and we do not have representation in any of those elected officials," she said.

Mancilla said currently, many Spanish speakers in Iowa do not feel empowered during election cycles because it’s harder for them to stay informed. Even though, she emphasized, that's how they can make a difference and hold elected officials accountable to the Hispanic community's needs.

They are being left behind.
Gloria Mancilla, Excluded and Essential Workers

"People that are eligible to vote, but they don't understand the process, they don't know who to vote for, or who stands up for that community and their concerns, they are being left behind," she said. "And they decide, ‘Well, I'm not going to vote because I don't know what I'm doing.’”

About seven percent of Scott County identifies as Hispanic or Latino. According to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), about 70 percent of Iowa's eligible Latino voters are registered. However, both national LULAC and the Iowa chapter have expressed concern over Iowa's new voting laws—saying it will lower Latino voter turnout in the state.

The bilingual structure of the forum was well-received by the candidates, according to Mancilla: "Knowing that they're going to stand with us is going to have a very big impact on our community, because now the rest of the community knows our needs and sees how we have been neglected."

She said she hopes it will bring Hispanic communities and the issues they face front and center to the candidates.

Quad Cities Interfaith
The doors will open at 11 a.m. and the event lasts until 1:30 p.m. at the "Fresh Start Building" in Davenport, formerly St. Mary's Catholic Church.

Mancilla said she hopes this bilingual forum will inspire others within the state in the future. She has two children and the oldest is just two years away from voting.

“We want the power of the Hispanic community, to come out, to be informed, to be educated, to know their rights and to be able to make a knowledgeable vote," Mancilla said.

She added it was a lot of work to arrange for a bilingual candidate forum, but it was worth it. Mancilla said she knows one event will not make an immediate difference in Latino voter turnout.

"Given that education and the power can change, all these problems that we have in the community, maybe not now, not this year, but it will start the beginning of a change for future elections," she said.

Voter registration in English and Spanish will be available before and after the event.