Voto Latino is a non-partisan organization that runs civic engagement programs which have reached 55 million Latino households nationwide. This group has used latest technology -- especially mobile devices -- to register more than 120,000 young Latino voters, increase Latino participation in the 2010 Census, and encourage them to get involved in shaping policies that affect their lives.
This week Voto Latino will launch a new smartphone app, aimed at helping Latinos make more informed decisions at the polls. Pamela Morejon, VP of digital media for Voto Latino, said the app will include a pocket guide to issues and candidates, local polling locations and hours, news from Voto Latino and its media partner NBC Universal, videos (especially celebrity-studded PSAs), example ballots, social media capabilities, and more.
Aside from information about national elections, the app also will provide local news and info for Latinos in the Silicon Valley area of California.
In any campaign it's important to understand your target demographic, and for U.S. Latinos mobile is a key communication channel. Research from The Hispanic Institute, Pew Internet and elsewhere indicate that U.S. Latinos often lead other demographics in smartphone adoption and using advance mobile device features more frequently.
This app will be available for iPhone, Android, and other mobile platforms. Previously Voto Latino had delivered similar content and features via a mobile-friendly website. "This is our first native app," said Morejon.
Voto Latino's strategy this year builds on its 2010 Be Counted, Represent! Census participation campaign supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the California Community foundation. The hallmark of this project was celebrity-studded public service videos, which appeared online and ran on national TV:
Voto Latino's new all-star PSA, The Enforcers, will debut soon.
According to Morejon, on the local level in Silicon Valley, Voto Latino has found that partnerships with radio stations are especially effective. She expects that radio will be a key way that local Latinos will learn about the app.
For similar campaigns by other organizations, she recommends: "Think about what sort of local celebrity you can partner with to get your word out, and get them on the radio. Right now we have celebrities from our coalition of supporters calling in to radio stations and getting on the air to encourage Latinos to vote. That's very powerful."
Even though Voto Latino has smartphone apps, text messaging (which works on any cell phone) remains a key tool in their mobile strategy. Latinos around the U.S. are subscribing to receive occasional text messages which help them understand why voter registration and voting is so important to their communities.
TurboVote is Voto Latino's technology partner for text messaging and e-mail. This company focuses on helping voters arrange to vote by mail or absentee ballot. "That's very attractive to young voters, because often they don't physically make it out to the polls on election day," said Morejon.
Voto Latino also has a strong social media presence, and is about to launch a Facebook app for voter registration. "The form will prepopulate fields with data drawn from your Facebook profile, which makes it easier and faster to fill out," said Morejon.
Making everything they do mobile friendly is a priority for Voto Latino. "All of our tools are mobile enabled and mobile-optimized, from our website voter registration form the content served by our partners at NBC Universal, we are ensuring that everything we do is accessible to users via mobile," she said.
The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.