Voto Latino Using Technology to Get Youth Vote

Actor Rosario Dawson and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom Promote Free Text Messaging Service For Registering Young Voters

Voto Latino, a nonprofit organization co-founded by actor Rosario Dawson, announced today that it is rolling out the first U.S. cell phone-based voter registration drive to register an ambitious number of young American Latinos for the November 2006 elections. The nonpartisan campaign will be powered by Mobile Voter’s TxtVoter (, a free nationwide text messaging voter registration service that any organization can use anytime and anywhere. 

Voto Latino is promoting the voter registration campaign by working with celebrities, national organizations such as the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and many leading tech-savvy youth organizers who emerged from the recent immigration rallies. Young American Latinos can text the keyword “Represent” to the number or shortcode 75444 from their cell phones to register to vote. The initiative will be promoted by:

Celebrities and politicians, such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, in major TV and radio spots

Musicians at concerts and on their websites

Popular club DJs

Individual supporters on social networking sites such as MySpace and the blogosphere in general

Street teams that will fan out across American cities.

Said Voto Latino’s Co-Founder Rosario Dawson, “TxtVoter allows anyone to register others to vote anywhere in the United States at any time! It’s an ingenious way to build on the growing political voice of young Americans. Sixty-five million people recently used text messaging to vote for their favorite American Idol and paid to do it! With TxtVoter, it’s free, it’s easy to use and it’s a great way to connect with friends and make a difference. Our power is literally in our hands.” Stated San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom,“Nothing is as cutting-edge or clever in the field of grassroots mobilization.”

Young voters, particularly young American Latinos, are an emerging electorate to watch this campaign season. More than one-third of American Latinos are under 35 years of age, and the group is growing more quickly than any other demographic. In 2004, young Latinos jumped six percentage points in turnout compared to 2000; overall, young voter turnout skyrocketed as 4.3 million more 18-29 year olds voted than in 2000. 

“50,000 young Latinos turn 18 every month in the US, 87% of whom are eligible to vote—an enormous electorate that’s getting bigger every day,” said Voto Latino Executive Director Maria Teresa Petersen. “By using TxtVoter, Voto Latino is leveraging the same technologies for voter registration that American Latino youth used to organize our nations largest marches.” .

“TxtVoter turns cell phones into voter registration forms in the pockets of millions of young people across the country,” said Mobile Voter Co-Executive Director Grace Stanat. “We’re proud that Voto Latino will lead the charge to use TxtVoter, working alongside a broad array of groups including Working Assets and Black Youth Vote! that are reaching out to register young people via text messaging.”

With TxtVoter, a free and easy-to-use service, participating organizations and individuals can use text-messaging to register voters. After using their cell phone to text a specific keyword (just like in American Idol), users text their name and address. The system then mails them a pre-filled registration form, including clearly worded, state-specific instructions. Alternatively, individuals can text in their email address for customized online registration. TxtVoter sends reminders to vote on Election Day, complete with polling location. TxtVoter also lets organizations track completion rates and build their lists by collecting data provided by users.

The tool is free and publicly available at for anyone and any organization to use.

Both Voto Latino and Mobile Voter are part of Young Voter Strategies’ nationwide, non-partisan effort to register 350,000 young voters in 2006, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Photo Credit: Rosario Dawson in Frank Miller’s Sin City directed by Robert Rodriguez.

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