The launch of UNIDOS, a mobile app that features news, videos and emojis, aims to increase voter participation of what is potentailly one of the most influential segments of Latino voters: Millenials.
The goal of the app is to get the attention of young people between 18 and 34 years old by providing them with information and convincing them of the importance of getting involved, explained John Rudolph, professor and founder of Feet in 2 Worlds, a journalism project that has promoted the work of immigrant journalists since 2004.
“We know the process is intimidating, especially for new voters,” said Rudolph. “These young people don’t get information from traditional media; everything comes to them through their phones.”
Rudolph is the creator of the project, which is also supported by ImpreMedia, publisher of La Opinión, and the national organization Mi Familia Vota, which is dedicated to promoting citizenship and voter registration.
Millenials are already the largest generation in the country, and Latino millenials, both immigrants and U.S.-born, make up almost half (44 percent) of all eligible Latino voters this year, according to the Pew Research Center.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Latino millenials tend to vote at lower rates than other young people. For example, in 2012, only 37.7 percent of Latino millenials voted, while 53.9 percent of all millenials went to the polls.
Why such little interest in the country’s political and electoral activity?
Marián Cuestas, a 24-year-old Colombian immigrant, got involved in the UNIDOS project because she understands her generation’s potential, but she knows there are a lot of obstacles.
“I’ve been polling my classmates and friends and I realized that they aren’t involved in politics because they aren’t well informed. They don’t understand the process; they don’t know the options,” said Cuestas. “They haven’t figured out how they can get involved or how doing that can help change society.”
The young woman adds that the situation these young people find themselves in, living between two cultures, may cause them to lack a sense of belonging and apathy when it comes to the American electoral system.
“I think this app is going to help us create a community, have communication of Latinos with Latinos, share our questions and have reliable sources of information,” she said.
The app can be downloaded to phones from iTunes and contains a variety of resources, including a set of emojis specially designed to share the message in an entertaining way.
Emojis, for example, invite young people to participate and register to vote, and include quotes from historical figures like Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr., and messages from well-known internet personalities.
It uses images and language popular with young people that can be shared on social media to disseminate information, videos made by young people themselves, and calls to download and continue sharing the app.
It also includes links to news about the elections in English and Spanish, as well as videos and information about how to vote, register to vote, voter guides, etc.
Felipe Guzmán, a political science student at Cal State Northridge, proposed sharing UNIDOS through young “ambassadors” at colleges and universities.
“That’s how you disseminate information to young people, from one young person to another,” said Guzmán. “That’s how I learned about Airbnb and Uber, etc. It makes sense that our generation, which uses technology for everything in life, also uses it to help ourselves and motivate others to learn to exercise their power.”
Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help mobilize Latinos politically and civically, is also collaborating on the project.
“Millenials are a group of potential voters that has grown since 2008, but the way to reach them is different, since they live on their phones,” said Benitez.
However, Mi Familia Vota is also using some of its longtime tactics to communicate with this generation of young Latinos, such as working with school districts to do educational work and voter registration in high schools.
“We’ve had great results doing that,” said Benitez. “But the most effective thing is peer-to-peer, youth-to-youth communication, since they don’t like authority and there’s a certain rejection of the government and political system.”
A rejection that UNIDOS hopes it will be able to overcome by communicating with young people in the way they are most comfortable with.
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