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12. Rosario Dawson & Maria Teresa Kumar

Founders of Voto Latino, How To Engage Citizens

12. Rosario Dawson & Maria Teresa Kumar

Illustration by Alison Cowles


With mobile tech and grassroots savvy, Dawson and Kumar encourage participation from a growing constituency

How can small changes drive results?

Dawson: "Whenever we do voter registration, we ask, "Why haven't you voted before?' The response is often, "No one's asked us.' It's not about telling people what to do—it's about sharing what they can do."
Kumar: "By simply sending young Latinos texts on Election Day, participation increased close to 8%."

In what way can you humanize politics?

Kumar: "We did a telenovela spoof so people could see themselves in it. It was very over the top. Rosario was about to get married to Wilmer Valderrama, but she learned he wasn't registered to vote."
Dawson: "My sister tells me, "Did you know that he's not registered?!' and I'm like, "I don't even know you!' to Wilmer."

How can tech be better leveraged in politics?

Kumar: "We have to spend a lot of our time getting people to register to vote, which we do with technology, but what should be happening is secretaries of state should allow everyone to register online."

Click here to see head-to-head responses to these questions from Dawson and Kumar, plus Purpose founder Jeremy Heimans, and Popvox founder Marci Harris, Nos. 11 and 13 on our Most Creative People list.



Dawson makes her debut film appearance in Kids

  • 2003

    Hispanic Magazine names Kumar as one of the most influential Latinas in government

  • 2004

    Kumar and Dawson found Voto Latino

  • 2004

    Dawson wins Rising Star Award at the American Black Film Festival

  • 2008

    Dawson becomes a spokesperson for's philanthropic campaign, More Than Footprints

  • 2008

    NBCUniversal signs Kumar as an MSNBC Political Contributor

  • 2009

    Dawson wins NAACP Image Award for outstanding actress in a motion picture for Seven Pounds

  • 2009

    Kumar cofounds Fastfwd Group, a boutique marketing firm

  • 2009

    Poder magazine names Kumar among the 40 most influential Latinos under 40

  • 2011

    Poder magazine adds Kumar to its list of 100 most influential Latinos in the U.S.