SXSW

SXSW panel: Latino vote could swing 2016 presidential race

Posted March 15th, 2016

Panel: "Swipe Left or Right: The Latino Millennial Vote"

Date/time: Tuesday, March 15 

The panelists: Maria Teresa Kumar, founding president and CEO of Voto Latino, and América Ferrera, actor, producer and Voto Latino activist. 

The gist: The panel discussed how Latinos will help define this year’s presidential elections and the future political landscape in the United States, since they are the largest ethnic minority group in the country and represent 11 percent of the electorate, with more than 25.2 million Latinos eligible to vote. During the forum, Kumar noted that there are some Latino social movements that compare with campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter movement, and Ferrera shared her thoughts about the importance of the Latino vote and how she get involved with Voto Latino five years ago. 

The takeaway:  The latino vote could make the difference in 2016 presidential election, panelists say

In front of less than 100 people in an auditorium with a capacity for more than 1,100 at the Austin Convention Center, producer, actor and activist América Ferrera compared the low attendance of the event with the current political landscape: the Latino vote is important, but it’s not getting as much national attention as it should. 

“It´s not a packed house,” Ferrera said. “I think it’s interesting and I think it’s important to acknowledge and to say: ‘this is where we’re at with this conversation” 

Ferrera made the comparison to start her presentation at the SXSW Interactive panel, titled "Swipe Left or Right: The Latino Millennial Vote." She said one of problems is that people are not taking the power of the Latino population seriously, that they don’t recognize Latinos as an agent of change, especially since they represent 11 percent of the U.S. electorate. 

She also said that public figures such as presidential candidate Donald Trump -- whose rhetoric has drawn criticism from Latino and immigrant communities -- have disrupted the real purpose of having primary elections and have turned the debates into offensive shows which lack purpose. 

“There was a time when republican debates included comprehensive immigration reform,” Ferrera said. “George Bush Senior and Ronald Reagan were talking about Latino immigrants as vital to our economy.” 

But the Latino community -- the “sleeping giant,” as Ferrera described it -- is waking up, said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, a civic media organization that seeks to recognize Latinos in leadership positions and empowering them. 

She described a community led by Latino millennials, who are Americans and are trying to organize and educate people to get them to the polls in November. 

“My concern with the 2016 election is not about who is going to get elected,” Kumar said, and then she explained that her real worry is that Latino communities could remain silent and not showing up at the polls. 

At the event, Kumar also showed a Voto Latino iPhone app which is now available, and provides information regarding voter registration and a video spot of a new campaign that will be launched soon to encourage Latinos to vote. 

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