presents "Turnout", a series that features leading Latino politicians, government leaders, and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

Millennials represent the largest generation in the United States, and with a Latino person turning 18 years old every 30 seconds, this demographic has become a pivotal voting electorate.

Yet, despite their growing numbers, mobilizing Latino millennials is a challenge on every political party's radar.

The Latino millennial voter turnout translated to mixed results during the midterm elections. Since Nov. 4, we have seen President Barack Obama announce a series of immigration executive actions and we have followed two juries' decisions to turn down indictments for police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

Latin Post spoke one-on-one with two leading national organizations committed to mobilizing millennials to vote and discussed their efforts and the obstacles they face.  

Ashley Spillane is president of Rock the Vote, the largest nonprofit and nonpartisan organization in the U.S. aimed to mobilize the millennial voting bloc; Luis Torres is the director of education policy for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the country with 135,000 members in 37 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

According to Spillane, Rock the Vote focused on "inspiring and motivating" the youth to turn out for the midterm election, but she acknowledged the amount of cynicism toward millennials over whether they would bother showing up at the voting booth. Spillane recognized that the lack of funding from political candidates resulted in lack of investment to reach and persuade new voters.

"[We] focused on our attention to young people nationwide, trying to give them a message of encouragement and [to] also draw direct parallels to issues that young people care about, and the impact that they can have if they actually turn out to vote," said Spillane, noting Rock the Vote's "#TurnoutForWhat" video featuring Lil' Jon, Darren Criss, Fred Armisen, Gabriel Valenciano, Lena Dunham, Sophia Bush, and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few.

"[Rock the Vote] really focused on reaching young people on the platforms that they frequent regularly. We are online, we have a mobile website, we have our online voter-registration technology that you can register to vote on your mobile phone, and we worked with people who are culturally resonant, that young people look up to, who they're following on these social media channels," Spillane added. In addition, the group has worked at fostering partnerships with Voto Latino, including Rosario Dawson and Wilmer Valderrama, with "a pretty intense and aggressive campaign to reach out to young Latinos in the southwestern part of the country to get them registered to vote."

Spillane said the partnerships included work to ensure that the growing demographic are included in the voting process, and "having their voice heard and feeling empowered to participate."

On behalf of LULAC, Torres said the organization is proud of their efforts to mobilize Latino millennials to vote and conducted several different methods to reach out to Latino voters. In addition to collaborating with other organizations, LULAC held voter registration drives and trained more than 400 people to canvas and conduct voter drives. There was also a call center on midterm Election Day to answer voters' questions.

"With millennials, in particular, this is a hard group to reach...The potential to be a sizeable electorate is there," said Torres. He added, "This is a very diverse group -- millennials -- that voting block. It's more likely to be civically engaged, but less likely to show up at the polls for some reason. They also have varying opinions about the government. Sometimes, those opinions are counterintuitive."

Torres noted that millennials are more likely to have problems about the Affordable Care Act, yet they agree the government should fund more towards health care, as well as oppose higher taxes. However, they believe the government should be investing more in transportation projects, education and more.

"[This] is a group you can't really pin down, and I think there is an opportunity there, we're certainly heading in the right direction in doing the traditional voter engagement, but we're also moving to online platforms," said Torres. "We're doing online voter registration. This is a group that's very tech savvy, that grew with technology at their fingertips, and I think that organizations like LULAC and others are evolving to make sure we meet those at this new group. So, we're proud of our efforts, but we're certainly trying to adapt to get more people."

"I think that we all acknowledge what an incredibly important demographic young Latinos are in this country," said Spillane, adding that the demographic is also "a growing constituency group that should have a say, and should have their voice heard and aren't participating at high levels as we need them to be."

Spillane said Rock the Vote focused its efforts on reaching out to the Latino population and believes they did a good job, but admitted there are "a lot of challenges," particularly with states with restrictive voting rights. The voter identification laws in Arizona and Texas, she pointed out, were examples of such barriers facing millennials looking to vote.

"It's important to us to fight and push back those things, and I think in spite of the challenges that we faced this year, we saw huge numbers of people registering to vote and huge numbers of people turning out to vote and I think it's important when we reflect on the narrative of 2014," said Spillane. "[It] was a low-participation year across the board. People did not feel particularly energized about the candidates on the ballot and young people turned out in spite of that, at least the same rate as they did in 2010."

According to Torres, the trend with the millennial voter turnout has remained "flat" at 12 percent during several election cycles, but he noted a 1-percentage point increase occurred for 2014.

"It could have been more. We're certainty looking to change that in the future, but, in general, the trend has been 12 percent. This year it went up by 1 point," said Torres.

Obama's decision to delay his immigration executive action has been considered as a turning point among the voting electorate, particularly within the Latino community. While LULAC and Rock the Vote are both nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations, Spillane and Torres recognized millennials' commitment to seeing forward progress. Torres stated that 89 percent of registered Latino voters approved of Obama's immigration executive action, but whether the percentage would translate into votes might depend on selected factors.

"Whether or not that translates into votes depends on how we're able to capitalize - and I'm saying as if I were a political strategist, right? - depends on how you were able to capitalize on that type of sentiment. Are you going to engage people, are you going to educate them, are you going to invest the funds and try to get them registered?" said Torres, adding LULAC's position on Obama's delay was of disappointment.

"We thought that we needed to move forward as quickly as possible. We think that the people responded as they thought they should have responded, and if you're a Democrat right now in Congress, you're feeling a little down because you've lost both sides of the Congress and that at least will remain like that for at least the next two years before we have the next midterm," said Torres.

"Young people in this country, even more than other generations, are incredibly optimistic about the future of the country and they're also incredibly committed to seeing forward progress and I think that the partisanship and the gridlock that you'd see in Washington is not particularly inspiring," said Spillane, adding that moving forward on an issue could have been motivating.

Torres, however, acknowledged that Latinos have ranked immigration as the third most important issue after the economy and health care, but the demographic have used immigration as a "gateway issue."

Torres explained, "[It's] like you're going to buy a car...Latinos care about the gas mileage, Latinos care about the efficiency of the tires, but if that car doesn't accommodate your whole family, guess what? They're not going to buy that car because it doesn't [fit] the whole family. If the policies of a politician doesn't fit the whole family -- undocumented or otherwise -- they're not going to look at that car, they're not going to take that politician seriously."

Issues since the midterm elections have included racial profiling concerns, law enforcement issues and basic human rights, particularly after the no indictment decisions in Brown and Garner's cases involving police officers. Spillane and Torres were asked if the mobilization of millennials -- as seen with on-the-street protests and social media activism -- could continue onto future elections.

"I think it's incredibly impressive what's happening around the country right now with so many young people out wanting to make their voice heard, wanting to have a say in what's going on in the country and wanting it to be a better place," said Spillane. "And I think that what we are going to try -- what we all have to do, not just Rock the Vote, although it is a huge focus of ours -- is draw the parallel between having a concern and having an issue that you want to see action taken on and voting."

Spillane said demonstrators have found the streets to be a better source to bring about change than going through the electoral process.

"[We] need to reestablish faith in the election process and make sure people know what kind of impact they can have, and I think what we'll do this year in 2015 is really focus on educating young people about the impact they can have about participating in local elections," added Spillane, noting local elections are set to occur this year including important positions ranging from mayor to city council and appointing law enforcement officials.

Torres recognized the racial troubles the Latino community faced, such as segregation in California and Texas, and overcoming riots in Dallas due to a Latino boy's death by a white police officer over an alleged theft of gum. Despite the turbulence, changes have occurred, such as the hiring and recruitment of Latino police officers and the first openly lesbian Latina serving as sheriff in the Lone Star State.

"My point is that our community has been engaged for a very long time," said Torres. "We may not be in the news that often or as much as others, but we've been and there's silent victories here and there and we'll continue to push our folks. There's certainly a new opportunity to become more engaged and more visible with media and the social network savvy or atmosphere that we're in today."

Torres added, "We very much know and understand the frustration when we see that our justice system doesn't align in a way that we think is fair for our community. We've seen it on our end, so we certainly empathize. There's varying opinion about facts and what happened and the details and whatnot, but I think the overall perception of the injustices in our system are those that are clearly understood by, I think, our community."

On whether the momentum of proactive millennials can continue, Spillane said, "There are over 90 million of us millennials in the country and we're the most diverse generation, too, it's over 43 percent of this country's millennial population are people of color...We are focused on turning everybody out and getting everyone involved and the growth in the Latino community is so huge and so important and such an opportunity to make sure that a diversity of perspective is being heard, that you will see a lot of our efforts geared at that community."

The importance of issues such as immigration, law enforcement and human rights will rely on turnout, be it voter turnout or protests. The conversation will no doubt continue during 2015 and the 2016 presidential election season.

For more, visit You can Like us on Facebook and follow on Twitter @Latin_Post. Let us know what you think on these issues. What will make millennials turnout to be heard? Use the hashtag #LPTurnOut.

Latin Post: TurnOut Transcripts:

- Latin Post TurnOut: Rock the Vote President Ashley Spillane Interview Transcript, click here.
- Latin Post TurnOut: LULAC Director of Policy Luis Torres Interview Transcript, click here.


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