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Archive for the ‘Voting resources’ Category

As Executive Director Voto Latino.org, Maria Teresa Peterson has learned a lot about how young Latinos are using New media technologies to communicate, share and network with one another. Her organization is one of the leading sites that targets young Latinos under age 30 to educate, encourage and help them register to vote. Started a few years ago as a non-profit that aired Public Service Announcements (PSA) over the air, it has developed into a big powerhouse organization.
She’s heard many stories about how Latinos and Latinas have turned to the Internet, text messaging and other media and mobile technologies to connect and engage with other young people who share the same issues.
While there seems to be a myth out there in the media that Latinos aren’t using technologies at the same rates as other groups, she’s seen statistics that show that Latinos are using text messaging at incredibly high rates, that Latino/Latina bloggers represent one of the highest populations and that they are turning to these new technologies to help them make decisions.
Voto Latino has also launched one of the first text-messaging voter registration campaigns in American history, where young Latinos could register to vote by sending a text message from their mobile phone. On Election Day 2006, those participating received Get-Out-The Vote text message reminders and it helped to increase Latino participation in the polls by 9%.
By listening to their members they’ve initiated creative and innovative ways to capture interest and drive more member sign ups and involvement. They’ve gone out and recruited Latino artists who help to promote voter registration and encourage voter turnout. A new program they’re piloting is to work with local DJs and celebrities to promote voting through programs that encourage the young Latino population to get involved. They are also employing Google ads, Facebook, and viral marketing on websites to reach out to their powerful constituents.
Maria Teresa shared that the young Latinos are what they term the “cultural ambassadors” in their households. That means in many households where parents may not be as familiar with English or the commercial products to purchase, they will turn to their children who will dictate what products and services to choose or that are deemed “cool”. So their children may state that they have to have high speed DSL or cable modem access so they can conduct research online to complete their homework at home. Parents would then ask which brand and where they can find the products. Their buying and consumer influence covers all categories of products including food, electronics, clothing, cars, services, etc. That’s why many savvy consumer brands are courting the Latino youth as a key influencer for making household buying decisions and recommendations.
In terms of voting, Maria Teresa also says that there are many missed opportunities to engage the Latino communities. She said that many candidates, consultants and organizations assume that the Latinos are consuming their media in Spanish only outlets. Citing a recent poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, over 79% of all American Latino eligible voters consumed electoral news in English. Additionally, over 50,000 young Latinos turn 18 every month and 93% of them are eligible to vote. So reaching out to this segment of the population requires targeted marketing and savvy outreach with specific messages.
She also said that some of the biggest issues Latinas are concerned about include Health i.e. Obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, sex education for women and AIDS information, Education and Immigration issues.
She said the issues facing young Latinos are different from the ones that their parents dealt with when they first emigrated from their native countries. Our future will depend heavily upon how we reach out and engage this next generation of Latino voters who will heavily influence the future outcome of our nation. Thank you Maria Teresa for the incredibly important and creative work your organization is performing to engage the young Latino voters. Mable

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Janis Hirohama was born in Japan on an U.S. Army base as a third generation Sansei. She spent most of her time growing up in Hawthorne, California . A working class neighborhood where many families were employed by the local Aerospace industry. Her neighborhood was mixed with second to fourth generation Latinos, a handful of African Americans and Whites. She grew up in a traditional Japanese American household where their family projected their cultural values on her: study hard and get a good education, uphold the family honor, never dishonor your family, be accountable to your community and always behave honorably. Her mother used to tell her “Comb your hair, you look like Yoko Ono” and there was nothing worse than being married to a hippie. Janis had to go to Japanese school to learn Japanese in Gardena, a nearby city where many Japanese Americans lived. Janis’ family shopped, bought their food, and went to all the local service providers in their community.

Her parents voted and encouraged her to vote. They didn’t make a big deal of it. However, she remembers when she was young and watching the Watergate hearings on TV. Senator Daniel Inouye was a prominent figure during those proceedings and it was a point of pride for her that a U.S. Senator was a Japanese American. However, she remembered John Ehrlichmann calling him “You little Jap” at one point of the proceedings and how it awakened her political consciousness that he would be subjected to outright bigotry. She clipped and saved an article detailing the event as it made a significant impact upon her.

During World War II, her mother, two sisters and older brother lost all their possessions and were put into the internment camp with all the other Japanese Americans in Poston, Utah. This experience had a major impact for her mother and she never alluded to the experience except to say obliquely “When we were in camp….”. She never explicitly talked to them about the experience. For years, Janis thought her mother was referring to a “summer camp”. Janis shared with us a saying “There’s a 100 ways to tell you’re a Japanese American….one of them is that camp doesn’t refer to summer camp”.

Janis remembered her first time seeing the film “Farewell to Manzanar” in 1993. It clearly articulated her feelngs about incarceration in camp. How people were so traumatized and ashamed to be put into a concentration camp. How they suffered unjustifiable burdens of shame. She remembers her mother who liked to write poetry and stories and that was the only subject she wrote about. The Japanese Americans were not open to talking about their experience and it created major impacts on their lives and their families. It taught them as Japanese Americans to keep a low profile, stick to their own communities, trust only people in your community. They didn’t want to leave their small communities and have to worry about being discriminated against. Janis was raised to be quiet, trust only your own kind and that it could happen again. Janis said that there was self consciousness being in groups of Japanese Americans. They felt that if White people saw you together, then you must be “up to something”.

Janis had no women mentors nor strong role models. When she graduated from college and became a litigator in the 1980’s for a Wall Street firm, it was very unusual to see an Asian American in that role. In fact, she was oftentimes mixed up by people in the firm with the other Asian American woman who happened to be a Chinese woman.

One of the reasons why Janis became involved with voting and eventually became the President of the California Chapter of the League of Women Voters California League of Women Voters is because her grandparents were barred from voting. They did not earn the right to vote until years later and then voted in every election. She saw what happened when minorities didn’t vote. She learned that the Japanese Americans were easy to target. Many of them were too young to vote and nobody called the community to tell them about their rights to vote. So they were powerless. She saw how it was important that we all use the right to vote as a way to change things.

Janis got involved with the League of Women Voters because their primary efforts are to inform and encourage active participation in government. Through their educational efforts, advocacy and empowerment of women to vote, they can teach them how to lobby within their own communities.
However, the League of Women Voters is not a diverse organization. It is largely a White and older group. It is important to reach economic and racially diverse communities to build and expand the organizations.

Janis said that there are numerous reasons why minorities do not vote in higher percentages:
-They come from a culture of non-voting
-Immigrants mistrust the government
-There is no confidence that their votes will be counted
-Lack of information and a language barrier
-Initiative system is confusing and doesn’t provide enough information
-Lack of creation and culture of voting and civic engagement in minority communities

She goes on to say that the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are a very diverse group of cultures. Many people do not speak English. While most people try to put all AAPIs into one bucket, it isn’t about “one size fits all”. The Japanese Americans had to fight hard for citizenship and many Japanese Americans died to get the right to vote. More recent immigrants did not face the same exposure and hardships and their issues are different.

We want to thank Janis for all her hard work and efforts to getting more women and minorities to vote and be engaged. She is setting a very strong role model for the rest of us in the years ahead. Congratulations on being the first woman of color President for the League of Women Voters in California. Mable

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If you’ve been following the 2008 Presidential race and you’re anything like me, you are by now drowning in all the rhetoric surrounding the candidates. Wouldn’t it be nice to see just the plain facts without the political spin? See how each candidate stands on the important issues, how they voted, know their backgrounds, see the statements they actually made and see who’s funding their campaigns? Well then, the Project Vote Smart website (www.votesmart.org) is a must view for you! The information is all there.

Check it out. Just click on the website link above, and then click on “Candidates” in the header on the home page, then click on “President”.  Scroll down below the map of the U.S. and click “All Presidential Candidates”. Then choose the candidates you’re interested in learning more about and voilà your questions are answered. If a particular issue is important to you, there are 44 issue categories to choose from and most likely your issue will be there. Let’s say the environment is your hot issue, click on it and the voting record on environmental issues for the candidate you’re researching is right in front of you. You can even find out who is endorsing each candidate and how special interest groups rank the candidate in support of its objectives.

The beauty of Project Vote Smart is that it’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of mostly non-paid volunteers who research the facts and double check them.

The Project is not funded by the government and does not accept funds from corporations or organizations that support or oppose a candidate or issue. So the information you find on the website is pure democracy in action.  You don’t have to be a member to access the information and it’s absolutely FREE!

Project Vote Smart also offers information on elected officials and candidates from the current President and his cabinet members, to members of the U.S. house and senate and on down to each individual state’s house and senate. You can even find the voting registration requirements for your state and the results of your last local election and more. It’s simply a terrific resource available to all voters.

I’ll be posting future blogs for Engage Her! about other voter resources, interviews with people of interest and websites of interest. –Annie Masullo

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As we’re listening to candidates talk about their qualifications for elected offices ranging from a district level to the White House, let’s make sure we’ve passed the first test.  We need to confirm that we’re registered to vote. I found a very cool site called:  Votepoke which quickly helps you find out if you’re registered to vote. You can even remind your friends to check if they or loved ones are registered to vote.  I tried it out and here’s it works: 

1.  Go to Votepoke It will ask you to put in your name, address, information and then you submit it.  Once I clicked it, I got an answer back almost immediately.  

2.  Next it asks you if you want to make sure your friends are registered to vote.  You can type in your family members’ email addresses, like your mom’s and friends into their form. Then you can add a personalized message any way you’d like and submit it. Presto, it will send off email messages to your friends. 

3.  I tested the system by putting in another one of my email addresses to see how the system responded.  Within a few minutes, I received an email telling me my options. It said that they had created a “personal dashboard” for me listing the friends whose emails I sent off.  I could now: 

-Invite friends to check if they’re registered to vote 

-“Poke” my friends who haven’t verified their registration yet to go do it 

-“Poke friends” who aren’t registered to vote to take action and register themselves.

I found the process to be quick, simple, and effective. At the end there was a final message from the Votepoke staff: 

“The single most effective way to get people to vote is for someone they know personally to ask them. Make a point of inviting your friends, family and co-workers to check their registration and keep “poking” them until they do.”

 It’s a great website and service. Tell all your friends. You’ll find the link here: www.votepoke.org or on our blogroll to our right. If family members have difficulty with the language or don’t like to read emails, help them out and encourage them to get registered. Thanks for reading. Enjoy “poking” your friends.  Mable  

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