Face­book launches first na­tion­wide voter reg­is­tra­tion drive

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Ka­reem LaTouche

FACE­BOOK WANTS you to get out to vote.

Last Fri­day, Face­book users in the United States who were 18 and up re­ceived a re­minder to reg­is­ter to vote at the top of their News Feed.

The voter reg­is­tra­tion drive, Face­book’s first to roll out na­tion­wide, is tap­ping the power of so­cial me­dia to in­flu­ence mil­lions of peo­ple and their friends, es­pe­cially young peo­ple who are less likely to turn out. The re­minder will be sent out over the next four days, Face­book said.

Click­ing on the ‘Reg­is­ter Now’ but­ton sends vot­ers to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s vote.USA.gov, which guides them through the reg­is­tra­tion process in their state. Af­ter reg­is­ter­ing to vote, users can share their sta­tus, a sub­tle form of so­cial pres­sure for friends to per­form their civic duty, too.

Face­book did not pro­vide an es­ti­mate of how many peo­ple would see the no­ti­fi­ca­tion. But the gi­ant so­cial network is tak­ing aim at a con­sis­tent pat­tern of voter ap­a­thy. Nearly 35% of US cit­i­zens el­i­gi­ble to vote in 2012 were not reg­is­tered, ac­cord­ing to Cen­sus data.

“We thought we had a unique abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity to show peo­ple this re­minder that they should be check­ing their reg­is­tra­tion so they can par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion,” Katie Har­bath, Face­book’s di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment outreach, told USA TO­DAY.

Voter reg­is­tra­tion drives have come a long way from clip­board-tot­ing vol­un­teers knock­ing on doors. Face­book has been nudg­ing peo­ple to vote since 2008 by post­ing re­minders to head to their polling sta­tion on elec­tion day. Ear­lier this year, the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany ex­per­i­mented with a voter drive dur­ing the pri­maries, en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple in in­di­vid­ual states to reg­is­ter.

That voter reg­is­tra­tion drive proved Face­book’s abil­ity to spur peo­ple to ac­tion. Nearly 200,000 reg­is­tered to vote on the Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of State’s web­site af­ter Face­book be­gan a voter reg­is­tra­tion push in the state in May. Other states re­ported sim­i­lar re­sults. A 2012 study by Na­ture found 340,000 ad­di­tional vot­ers turned out for the 2010 midterm elec­tions be­cause they saw a re­minder to vote on Face­book.

In all, Face­book es­ti­mates 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple were reg­is­tered as a re­sult of its re­minders on Face­book dur­ing the pri­maries.

The Face­book voter reg­is­tra­tion drive is one of many in the run-up to the elec­tion. USA TO­DAY network launched the web site, Vot­ingBe­cause.com, which in­cludes ac­cess to Rock The Vote reg­is­tra­tion tools.

Voter reg­is­tra­tion is man­aged state by state with each state set­ting its own dead­lines and rules. Some states al­low res­i­dents to reg­is­ter on elec­tion day, oth­ers re­quire them to reg­is­ter 30 days in ad­vance.

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