AUSTIN, TX -- At one of the foremost gatherings of tech-oriented, young and influential leaders, a Latino organization announced a new way to mobilize and ensure millennial voters' participation.
At SXSW Interactive, Voto Latino announced the launch of a new downloadable Apple application, VoterPal, allowing people to scan their ID to register to vote. The online fields automatically populate, followed by a confirmation email sent in a matter of seconds, cutting down the time from the usual paper registration process.
"So when we're trying to figure on how to franchise the next group of Americans, we have to figure out where they are, how they talk, and more importantly, we have to use the technology that they crave," said Voto Latino CEO and President Maria Teresa Kumar in her opening remarks for the panel "Swipe right or Left: the Latino Millennial Vote."
Kumar said the aim in developing VoterPal is to mobilize peer-to-peer voter registration as a solution to stimulating voter turnout in the face of what some civic and political activists consider a more hostile political climate targeting American Latinos and immigrants.
Kumar also said the Supreme Court's recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act civil rights provisions affected Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina - five states that have experienced the largest Latino population boom in the past 10 years.
"As we see these sweeping demographic changes, what we find in the Latino community, is that they often don't know how to navigate the political process. We have to figure out how to modernize our election systems," said Kumar.
After her opening remarks, Kumar proceeded to moderate a discussion with celebrity actress and Voto Latino's Artist Coalition Chair America Ferrerra to get into the mind of young Latino voters.
As soon as the actress stepped out to the stage, she immediately pointed out to what she referred to as "the elephant in the room," a low-audience turn out for the panel, emphasizing the need to include more American Latinos in the process and for better outreach.
"That's why I feel this work is so empowering to me. There is an answer. We just need to resource and give people the proper tools and educate them, and ask them to be a part of the conversation," said Ferrera.
Voto Latino plans to continue promoting the VoterPal app during the election season by hitting the ground at conferences and college campuses across Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California, and anticipate expanding to New Mexico and Florida as well.
The inclusion of the Voto Latino panel is part of SXSW programming called SXAméricas intended to bring together Latinos from the U.S., Mexico, and Central and South America. The interactive portion of SXAméricas has grown since the previous year expanding the number of participating tech companies from Mexico, Argentina, and Puerto Rico to stimulate economic growth. SXAméricas will also also host on Saturday March 19th the All Latino Showcase including Intocable, Grupo Fantasma, Systema Solar, Division Minuscula, 3BallMTY and more to be announced.