How Do You Fight Voter Suppression in Florida? Like This.
In 2011, Florida made some important changes to its voting laws. Every Floridian needs to understand these changes particularly African Americans, Latinos, young voters, and women. These changes address how civic groups register people to vote, who is eligible to vote and when people can vote.
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Urgent social media efforts by Latino organizations aim to get Hispanic youth registered to vote
Latino organizations are revving up for the 2012 election by using the language of young Hispanics to speak to them and get them to register to vote — social media.
Partnerships and alliances have been formed amongst established Latino organizations like Voto Latino, The National Council of La Raza, and others, which are using Youtube, Facebook,Twitter and the online space to bring their message to a voting bloc that will only be able flex its considerable political muscle if it actually shows up on election day.
“When you look at 2008 registration data, the least registration was 18 to 24-year-old Latinos,” says Dan McSwain, vice president of digital campaigns for Voto Latino, adding that it was true whether you looked at age, educational attainment, race or geography. “It’s shocking. It shows traditional efforts have been falling short.”
One of the innovative online efforts is a new Youtube campaign forged through a partnership between NCLR and Cuéntame, which is a social community 80,000 Facebook fans strong. The first video provides a rapid-fire montage of Latinos breaking down the process of registering to vote in Florida and explains the acceptable photo ID at polling places and where they can be obtained.
Axel Caballero, the Cuéntame founder, says the partnership focuses on the strengths of both organizations.
“We have the online community and the ability to mobilize folks online,” he says of his advocacy organization, which focuses on video and documentary content. “NCLR makes an amazing impact on the ground. It’s a partnership made in heaven because we can provide tools like this video to push the boundaries and heighten registration efforts and they can show it to people at community forums across the country.”
The Florida video will be followed up by a few more, including a nationally aimed video which will connect the “show your papers” immigration laws with the idea of “showing your voter registration.”
Matthew McClellan, who directs issue and advocacy campaigns for NCLR, says the Florida video will be shown at voter forum town halls across the state and through social platforms online.
“We use social media because everyone knows that’s how you reach a young audience,” McClellan says. “Latinos ages 18 to 30 are the fastest growing groups using mobile technology and social media. It’s the way Hispanic youth communicate with each other.”
Mobile is a focus for Caballero. “That’s why Youtube is great,” he says. “It’s tremendously mobile friendly and it takes us to where our audience is.”
Many Latino organizations have also banded together for the “Ya Es Hora” campaign, which includes NCLR and Voto Latino, and is a coalition seeking to work together to increase the Hispanic voter population and educate voters on the issues that are affecting them. The same goes for Telemundo’s voter initiative “Vota por tu Futuro” which also includes Voto Latino.
Voto Latino also partnered with Turbovote, which is funded by Google and the Knight Foundation among others, and bills itself as a service which “makes voting from home as easy as renting a DVD from Netflix.”
“We partnered with Turbovote to make online registration available not just on desktops but on mobile as well,” says Voto Latino’s McSwain.
Users can register online and are then emailed their completed form, which they then mail away. “If in a few weeks, our records show your registration hasn’t landed at a post office or a state election office, we then send you a completed application with a self-addressed stamped envelope which you can sign and mail,” McSwain says.
Voto Latino counts a community of 50,000 Facebook fans, but also says it uses its strengths as an organization to add a wrinkle to its social media efforts. That strength comes in the form of its Latino celebrity partners and their considerable social communities to spread the get out the vote message.
Voto Latino has been working with these celebrities on public service announcements to get Hispanic youth registered. One of the PSA’s features popular singer Demi Lovato, who counts more than 13 million fans on Facebook and 8.5 million followers on Twitter.
When she tweeted that she was on set working with Voto Latino, it was retweeted 19,082 times and the hashtag #VotoLatino trended on Twitter.
McSwain believes this type of connection by Voto Latino is invaluable, given the demographic’s relative interest in politics.
“We were shooting our celebrity PSA in LA with Wilmer Valderama and Demi Lovato,” he says. “By doing this we know we’re reaching politically disengaged Latinos and we can capture their attention that way.”
McSwain says there are a lot of reasons for young Latinos to want to get out to vote.
Another larger initiative is on the horizon as the nonpartisan National Voter Registration Day, September 25, will see more than 200 organizations come together because “In 2008, 6 million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register.”
The project will be a coordinated day of field, technology and media efforts and include a wide array of diverse organizations including NAACP chapters, Rock the Vote, Patagonia and Tumblr, which is one of the founding partners. NCLR and Voto Latino will take part.
Cuéntame’s Caballero says initiatives like these and his Youtube campaign can get people registered to vote with a few clicks.
“It really demystifies the process,” he says, adding that Youtube’s ability to annotate videos makes them interactive.
“You click on the video which takes you to a site to register to vote. It’s about understanding the internet and it’s tools and understanding your audience and how to reach them.”