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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Rick Toner (red shirt), county coordinator for Church Voter Guides, speaks outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on April 22, 2022, to announce the Spanish version of his organization's voting guide. He was joined at the news conference by (left to right) Brian Boushey, Billi Toner and Melody Garcia.

The Church Voter Guides project published a Spanish version this week, an extension of efforts to mobilize local congregations to be more active in and informed about local elections.

Rick Toner, county coordinator for the project, said the Spanish version of the guide will help bring more voters to the polls. The Hamilton County primary is May 3.

"This is about everybody in the county and doing as much as we can to get this in further reaches," Toner said during a Friday morning news conference announcing the new guide.

Church Voter Guides, originally launched in Colorado, surveys all candidates in local competitive races to learn where they stand on issues. The responses from candidates are printed in the guide, covering topics such as spending, development, election integrity and Planned Parenthood.

While Toner got the idea from the Colorado group, Hamilton County is the first version to be translated to another language, he said. The work involved four translators, who translated the guide twice for accuracy.

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Church Voter Guide

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Voter guide

Sample question and answers from the voter guide, with the three candidates for mayor of Hamilton County.

Question: Should governmental laws, ordinances, regulations, etc. follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments? Why or why not?

Matt Hullander: “Absolutely. If more would follow the basics provided to us, we’d have a true culture shift across every sector of society. I am 100% pro-life and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.”

Sabrena Smedley: “God gave us the Ten Commandments as a guide for right living. This is how I strive to conduct myself as a public servant and will continue to do so if elected Mayor. Everything government does should be based on the only objective grounding for moral truth, which is the revealed Word of God in the Bible.”

Weston Wamp: “Government laws, ordinances and regulations should first and foremost follow the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Our country’s founding is deeply connected to Judeo-Christian morals. That “certain unalienable rights” are given by a Creator is central to understanding the American experiment. However, we were founded as a pluralistic society and the Ten Commandments should guide the personal behavior of all Christians.”

Melody Garcia worked as one of the translators and said she got involved in the project to help members of the Hispanic community become better informed. She said she encourages people to do their own research.

"The Hispanic community is very hard working," Garcia said. "And I think they need to be looking out for their best interest because nobody else is going to do it. So, I think it's important for the Hispanic community to know who to vote for based on the answers from the politicians, not from what the media is telling them."

(READ MORE: The Chattanooga Times Free Press voter guide)

(READ MORE: New voting guides let Christians see where Chattanooga area candidates stand on key conservative issues)

The voter guides have been downloaded several thousand times in recent weeks, Toner said. There is a lot of interest among churchgoers, he said.

"What we found is that churches are very, very hesitant, but the body is absolutely coming and reaching out to us," he said. "It's grassroots. It's from the ground up that's coming. So churches are getting involved sometimes because their members are actually asking."

Groups such as Calvary Chapel Chattanooga, July 2 Life, Choices and Acropolis Grill are supporting the voter guide project.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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