EXCLUSIVE: Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar on Romeo Santos Campaign - “He Has Been Incredibly Generous”

Twenty two million represents the number of Latino voters who will be eligible to vote for the 2012 Election. This year, Latinos will account for nearly 9% of voters in the U.S. The number may appear small, but according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials it’s an increase of almost 26% from the previous year. Studies also suggest that the number will only continue to multiple since every month at least 50,000 U.S. Latinos turn 18 and are legally allowed to vote.

Executive director of Voto Latino, Maria Teresa Kumar, exclusively talks to us about the power of the Latino vote, her thoughts on Time magazine's "Yo Decido" issue, and of course on Romeo Santos' latest Voto Latino campaign.

Romeo Santos Joins Voto Latino And Wants You To Hit The Polls!

Your organization has always done amazing work in regards to getting Latinos to vote. How is Voto Latino working towards getting more Latinos to hit the polls for Election 2012?

We speak to a demographic that very few people get to reach. Twenty two million Latinos are estimated to be eligible to vote by the next presidential election and in this number, 50% of them are under the age of 40. That’s why we work very closely with celebrities like Romeo Santos to make sure that we are reaching that younger audience. We are all about making politics easy, friendly, and open. We have such a fast-growing population who actually has the power to make changes – not just in choosing our next President, but also in local issues like school boards. 

What issues do you think are currently pertinent to Latinos voters?

I think it’s important for Latinos to vote for candidates that care and address Latino issues. Latino issues are education and jobs – more than anything else. They also want people to stop beating up on them about issues regarding immigration. I think these issues make for an interesting and powerful year. 

How did Voto Latino decide to get Romeo Santos on board?

His publicist is a longtime supporter. Aventura actually appeared on one of our first PSAs back in 2004. Romeo Santos contacted us about being involved. He has been incredibly generous – not just saying ‘yeah I’ll do a PSA for you,’ but also offering to take Voto Latino on the road with him. We are touring with him in 11 states and we are going into areas like Texas, Miami, California, that have a big Latino population and getting them to register. The cool thing is that he reaches an audience that most politicians can’t - the people that no one ever talks to about the importance of their political voice.

Election 2012: The Latino Vote

What are your thoughts on Time magazine’s “Yo Decido” issue, which talks about Latinos having the power to pick the next President?

I think this year Time magazine hit it right on the money. Unlike 2008, the electoral map about where the Latino voters are coming from is no just in Florida and California. All of a sudden we are in major swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and the list goes on. Because the Latino vote is so powerful in all of these different states we can very well decide the 2012 Election, but it’s going to be our responsibility as a community to make sure we are registered and get out to vote.

What other grassroots initiatives is Voto Latino launching to target those battleground states?

For the first time ever, Voto Latino is hosting a “Power Summit,” which is going to bring in over 400 young professionals and grassroots organizers from these states that we just mentioned. Rosario Dawson will also be in attendance. These young professionals are going to get trained at USC for two days on the nuts and bolts about voter registration, media, and leadership positions. Our goal is to train people about everything they need to do to run a successful grassroots campaign. Then they go back to their states and neighborhoods and become grassroots organizers. It’s going to take place April 14th and 15th at USC. 

The foundation that the “Power Summit” is building can give birth to the next Latino President. What do you think?

I sure hope so! That’s what we keep saying. The first Latino President to come out of Voto Latino!

Be sure to visit VotoLatino.org for more information!