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July 23, 2014

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Swing your hips, then swing the election

Romeo Santos teams with VotoLatino to promote political participation

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Jason DeCrow / AP

Romeo Santos, center, performs with Yandel, left, and Wisin, right, of reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel, during a concert at Madison Square Garden, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 in New York.

Romeo Santos

Romeo Santos, right, performs with Usher during a concert at Madison Square Garden, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 in New York. Launch slideshow »

When chart-topper Romeo Santos comes to the Joint at Hard Rock Hotel on Sunday, it will be the last stop of his U.S. tour and also wrap up one wave of a voter registration campaign organized by VotoLatino.

VotoLatino is a nonpartisan organization founded in 2004 by actress Rosario Dawson and MSNBC political commentator Maria Teresa Kumar that promotes civic engagement among Latino youth.

"Latino issues are American issues," said VotoLatino spokesman Dan McSwain. "Latinos everywhere are struggling with the same problems as everyone else, unemployment, the home foreclosure crisis, education. These are all issues that everyone is impacted by no matter where their families are from. VotoLatino promotes civic participation so we can claim a better future by voting."

The organization has been accompanying Santos on his tour stops, registering concertgoers along the way. Santos, who mixes hip-hop and R&B with various Latin styles, was born in New York to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother. McSwain said Santos, who has had three songs hit number one on the U.S. Latin charts and has the current No. 2 Latin album on iTunes, reached out to VotoLatino because he wanted to support its cause.

"I thought this was a good cause. I'd like to encourage the majority of my young fans and Latinos to vote and get involved," Santos told CNN about his involvement in the campaign.

VotoLatino has attempted to reach its main target, 18- to 35-year-old Latinos, through innovative use of social media and new technology.

Last year, during its campaign to promote census participation, VotoLatino passed out free iTunes download cards that also urged people to fill out their census forms.

"It was iTunes’ most converted on promotion last year," McSwain said. "So we've fired it back up this year, and we just announced a similar promotion this year to promote voter registration."

At Facebook.com/votolatino, visitors can download a free 35-track playlist by various artists who all have donated songs to help support VotoLatino. Later this year, VotoLatino plans to launch a mobile application that will bridge the "gap between offline and online and makes registering and committing to vote a social and community-based activity," McSwain said.

The National Council for La Raza, which recently launched its own get-out-the-vote campaign, says 500,000 Hispanics turn 18 in the United States every year, and there are currently 9 million eligible Latino voters in the country who have not registered.

McSwain said it was becoming harder to register voters as some states have passed more restrictive laws since 2008.

"Communities of color, especially Asian Americans and Latinos, don't have as high registration numbers compared to … other groups," he said. "Foreclosures have also complicated things. If you lost your home in foreclosure you have to re-register to vote in 2012. … If you are maybe moving around and can't establish a permanent residence, it may be impossible to vote in certain circumstances. A number of communities will be impacted."

VotoLatino will be teaming up with another concert tour after the Santos tour wraps this weekend, but McSwain said the company was not yet ready to announce the performer.

Those who sign up to volunteer at the concert for VotoLatino at votolatino.org/form/romeo-santos-tour will be eligible to win two free tickets to the Romeo Santos show at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 4455 Paradise Road.

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