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Hispanic-vote campaign targets youth with celebrities, social media

WASHINGTON — National Hispanic groups unveiled a plan Thursday to boost the Latino vote in 2012 by using celebrities and social media to target young Hispanic voters on issues such as voter ID law, education and immigration.

The America4America campaign, backed by Voto Latino and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, aims to engage the tens of thousands of younger, Hispanic voters, who backers of the campaign said did not vote in Arizona in the last election.

“I think that’s a group of people that this particular effort, Voto Latino, can motivate like no other effort going on can, including candidates,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson.

He believes the issues America4America will raise — such as immigration, voter ID and education — will motivate younger Latino voters to register and show up to vote on Election Day.

If those voters do show up, state Republicans said Thursday they are confident that they will vote Republican.

Based on their polling data, Republicans believe that the issues motivating young voters, including young Hispanic voters, are traditional Republican issues like jobs, the economy and education.

“Polling has revealed that the most important issues to Latino voters — jobs, the economy, education, crime — are all the items that poll the highest,” said Shane Wikfors, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party. “In fact, immigration polls way down at the bottom.”

Viva Ramirez, a native Arizonan, was recruited by Voto Latino to work in the state about two years ago. Ramirez said he has been working to build relationships and get ready for 2012.

“Everybody’s sort of falling asleep at the wheel. And the answer to it is participation,” Ramirez said.

Grijalva also said Democrats have taken the Hispanic vote for granted.

“Some of our leadership on the Democratic side were asleep at the wheel,” he said, allowing “extremist positions” to take hold in the state.

“It’s only now that pushback comes from the other side,” Grijalva said, pointing to the successful campaign to recall state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration enforcement law.

Voto Latino President Maria Teresa Kumar said the political polarization of the state is preventing communities from working together. She said one of the main goals of Voto Latino in Arizona is to work with all groups, not just the Latino community.

“How do we work with youth groups, evangelical groups and like-minded Americans who truly believe that racial profiling is unacceptable?” Kumar asked.

Ramirez said getting people registered to vote is not the hard part. It’s getting them motivated to exercise that vote on Election Day. He said you can’t get young people to even look up from their phones, so getting entertainers involved in the campaign and offering apps for iPads and other devices is the way things are going to be done.

Voto Latino’s Facebook page had 8,913 people talking about it, which is a measure of engagement, and its Twitter page had over 12,000 followers.