The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 7th

Candidate, Ballots Represent Hispanics

Carrboro's growing Hispanic population led the Orange County Board of Elections to offer bilingual ballots.

For the first time, the Orange County Board of Elections will offer bilingual ballots to voters in Carrboro.

Carolyn Thomas, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, said bilingual ballots are required if 6 percent of a town's population speak Spanish as their primary language.

Hispanics make up 12 percent of Carrboro's population.

And to represent voters needing the bilingual ballots, candidate John Herrera is seeking a spot on the board.

Herrera said he thinks the ballot change is a reflection of the increasing Hispanic population and will be a service to the voters.

"(The bilingual ballot) is a really good way to inform voters and encourage them to vote as informed voters," Herrera said. "It's about giving access to all the U.S. citizens."

Other alderman candidates also spoke out in favor of the bilingual ballot. "I think it's a good idea if it helps people make a decision," said candidate Jim Porto.

Incumbent candidate Allen Spalt commended the bilingual ballot but emphasized that registration among Hispanic voters still is too low.

"I don't believe the registration (of Hispanics) is high enough," Spalt said.

Voters must register by Oct. 12 to participate in Orange County's Nov. 6 elections.

Overall, none of the candidates said they are surprised to see a Hispanic candidate running.

"No, I'm not surprised because the (Hispanic population's) growth has come kind of suddenly. We have been very interested in how we can reach out to the Hispanic communities," said incumbent candidate Diana McDuffee.

McDuffee mentioned some outreach efforts aimed at the Hispanic community in which the board has been involved, such as community soccer fields and affordable housing.

Incumbent candidate Jacquelyn Gist said she is not surprised there is a Hispanic candidate running. "I think the time is right," she said. But Gist said she does not want to see representatives voted for solely based on their background. "I believe people should be looked at for who they are," Gist said. "I don't want people to vote for me because I'm a woman."

Candidate Stephanie Padilla said the time has come for a Hispanic to seek a spot on the board. "As a community, they've just finally reached their maturity where they've had somebody come forward and say, `I'd be glad to be your representative,'" Padilla said.

Porto said Hispanics needed increased representation on the board. "I'm glad to see that we do have Hispanics participating more now," Porto said.

Padilla expressed the sentiment of all candidates that a diverse population is integral to the character of Carrboro. "Very basically, (Hispanics) make all areas of Carrboro less homogeneous," she said. "I think that's good."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk.unc.edu.

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