Census campaign targets tech-savvy Hispanic youth

March 10, 2010 7:03:18 PM PST
Groups pushing for robust Hispanic participation in the 2010 census announced a new campaign Thursday that aims to reach the hard-to-count demographic through its smart-phone-toting youngsters.

The "Be Counted, Represent" campaign offers music downloads and a chance at concert tickets to cell phone users who share their e-mail addresses and phone numbers with organizers and forward information about the census to their friends.

Principal organizers Voto Latino and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund stress in their messages that undercounted areas risk losing funding for transit, infrastructure and other needs, as well as political representation.

They hope those messages promoting participation in the count will zip throughout the social networks of youngsters who can persuade their parents to fill out and return their census forms.

"You're looked at by many, many, many people as being powerful when it comes to money that they can line their pockets with," actress Rosario Dawson, a Voto Latino co-founder, told teenagers gathered in the library of a predominantly Latino high school. "When it's money that can line your pockets, no one ever says anything. But we're saying something."

The campaign offers a package of 25 music downloads curated for a young Hispanic audience to cell phone users who share their zip codes, e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers with the program's organizers. The downloads include songs by such artists as Pitbull, Mos Def and Morrissey.

Users can get also get songs by taking census quizzes on a smart phone application that they download.

If they invite their friends to download the application, they're entered into a raffle for tickets to a "secret concert" to be held in the Los Angeles area in April.

Anyone can participate, although the campaign is aimed at teens and 20-somethings.

Organizers said such measures are a way to get through to an ethnic group that has been hard for census officials to reach because of indifference, language barriers and - for some - deportation fears.

Alejandro Fernandez, an 18-year-old high school senior who attended the announcement, said he planned to download the census application on his Web-enabled phone and would share it with friends who will spread the word to their parents.

"They'll be exposed to what the census is really about and not be scared," he said.

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