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Getting the Latino Vote Using Social Media

Latino Vote

Social networks, videos and Hollywood stars are the tools that different associations are using nowadays to entice the 15 million eligible young Latinos to cast their votes, since this is a group that tends to punch below its weight in legislative elections.

"Latinos are on the Internet, so we have to look for them where they are," Yandary Zavala, communications project manager for Voto Latino, told the EFE news agency.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world where citizens have to register before being able to vote, instead of the government being held responsible for drawing up a list of people who are eligible to vote.

For that reason, getting voters to register has always been a big under taking for different organizations that over the years have been knocking down barriers that made people prefer to stay home rather than go out and vote.

The passing of the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, or NVRA, was a key step in overcoming that sluggishness.

The law, known as the "motor voter act," allowed registration forms to be sent in the mail and established that the states ought to offer voter registration services in public agencies.

However, the Internet became the key instrument for getting people to vote and was understood as such by the Rock The Vote association, which pressured the Obama administration in 2008 to go national with the automatic registration of voters online.

"These efforts to use the progress of digital technology as a means to improve the exercise of democracy were well understood by Latino organizations", the associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, Mark Hugo Lopez, said in a statement to EFE.

Technology and social networks are combined with techniques that activists used in the ‘60s and ‘70s, as they dedicated their lives to the struggle for civil rights and, particularly, to the equality before the law of African Americans.

Nonetheless, in the 21st century, and especially among the Latino population, new strategies have evolved.

"Most Latinos get their political information not only on the Internet but also through their mobile phone connections," Zavala said.

"For the Voto Latino organization, Facebook and Twitter have become essential instruments for ‘knocking on the door’ of potential Hispanic voters."

Get-out-the-vote messages don’t come from one qualified person or a specific association, but are shared on Facebook and go viral on Twitter via retweets.

Currently, according to Voto Latino figures, 15 million Hispanics have the right to vote in the United States and, specifically, 33 percent of them are between ages 18-34. But Pew Hispanic Center notes that the numbers of votes cast by Latinos are below those of other groups in the country, including blacks.

The number particularly diminishes in the mid-term legislative elections, marked by the disappointment of some Latino groups about immigration reform.

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