Face­book no­ti­fies its users of state’s early vot­ing op­tion

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

In a first for the so­cial me­dia colos­sus still sting­ing from scru­tiny over its role in the 2016 elec­tion, Face­book has been rolling out a plan to send re­minders to its users that they can cast their bal­lots be­fore Elec­tion Day on Nov. 6 in ev­ery state that of­fers early vot­ing.

The re­minder was to ap­pear on Mary­land res­i­dents’ Face­book pages on Thurs­day, the first day of an early vot­ing pe­riod that runs through Nov. 1, ac­cord­ing to state elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor Linda H. La­mone.

An of­fi­cial with Face­book con­firmed that this will be the first time the com­pany has sent re­minders about early vot­ing. It started in cer­tain states on Wed­nes­day.

“This is the first elec­tion where Face­book has run an early vot­ing re­minder, and we’re do­ing it in ev­ery state that has early vot­ing,” wrote the of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to be iden­ti­fied, in an email to The Bal­ti­more Sun.

In an email sent Tues­day to Mary­land elec­tion of­fi­cials and ob­tained by The Sun, a po­lit­i­cal and gov­ern­ment out­reach of­fi­cial with Face­book wrote that “the re­minder will read ‘Early Vot­ing Has Started’ and it will give peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to share they have voted.”

Face­book has faced scru­tiny over how the plat­form, which has more than 2 bil­lion ac­tive monthly users, was ma­nip­u­lated dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion. Data from mil­lions of users were leaked to dig­i­tal con­sul­tants who used it to help Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. And Rus­sian in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions have been ac­cused of us­ing Face­book and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms to med­dle in the elec­tion.

In July, Mary­land be­came the first state to reg­u­late po­lit­i­cal ads on Face­book and other so­cial me­dia sites. Face­book of­fi­cials have called the law a “na­tional model” and urged other states to ap­prove the same mea­sure.

State elec­tion of­fi­cials say they don’t mind the help in spread­ing the word about early vot­ing. Dur­ing early vot­ing, des­ig­nated polling sites through­out Mary­land will be open each day, in­clud­ing Sat­ur­day and Sun­day.

“It’s al­ways good for or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote turnout — whether it’s Face­book or the League of Women Vot­ers,” said deputy elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor Nikki Charl­son. “We’re all for that.”

Thirty-seven states and Wash­ing­ton of­fer early vot­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. — Doug Dono­van

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