Can social media turn the US into a nation of voters?
Several US states said that new records have been set for registration activity.
M. Spencer Green/AP/File
Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter are rocking voter registration.
The social media networks are part of a national voter registration campaign that has seen records set in numerous states since Facebook first started to nudge its users on Friday.
“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, who manages civic engagement products for Facebook. “This is the natural next step.”
And what a next step it’s been. Georgia’s online voter registration system, for instance, recorded a 2,500 percent increase in the number of requests it received over the same day last year. As results continue to come in from different states, #NationalVoterRegistrationDay has shown web and social media platforms are a powerful tool to combat the fact that a third of eligible Americans do not vote on Election Day.
The idea for the campaign, whose 4,000 partners also include Google, Tumblr, and Reddit, was born in 2008, when about 6 million people were unable to vote because they did not register, either because they didn’t know about or missed a deadline, according to NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org.
"We want everyone to celebrate," Matt Singer, founder of the movement, told CNET. "A lot of web platforms are known for having a young audience, like Tumblr, but ... I think everyone in America uses Google."
Facebook kicked things off Friday, displaying a reminder at the top of newsfeeds. The pinned post showed users above the age of 18 how to vote and which of their friends have already registered.
Google has also been offering a tool that includes options for registration, as well as deadlines in your state. This year, the search engine also added voter registration in Spanish.
Twitter rolled out the official #iRegistered hashtag complete with an emoji of an American flag top hat over 2016. #NationalVoterRegistrationDay was also trending on Twitter, according to USA Today.
All the sites participating directed users to a federal website that linked them to voter registration pages for their home states.
In addition to Georgia, 47,000 Minnesotans updated their registrations or registered for the first time over the weekend, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State. On just Friday, almost 27,000 users accessed the system, nearly four times more than the previous one-day record.
More than 25,000 residents in both Kentucky and in Indiana updated their registration or registered for the first time, according to The Hill.
Almost 200,000 registered voters in California created or updated their records on Monday alone, the second most active day since the state’s online registration was created, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla. More than 60 percent of these Californians were under the age of 35, and a third were under 25, according to The Hill.
These statistics stand in stark contrast to the 35 percent of US citizens eligible to vote in 2012 that were not registered, according to census data. It also shows the evolution of voter registration efforts, since social media platforms have used their sites to encourage voters to turn out.
“While politically active citizens have for years tried to track down unregistered, yet eligible, voters and coax them to the polls by knocking on doors or setting up informational booths, the presence of more subtle nudges on social media could help to determine Facebook’s influence on voting behavior,” writes Amanda Hoover for The Christian Science Monitor.
Before today, the social media platform had estimated that its reminders influenced 1.5 million people to register when it started the notifications during the primaries, according to USA Today.
Facebook and other sites also have a proven record of persuading voters to turn out to the polls. A study by published in Nature found that in the 2010 congressional elections, 340,000 additional people voted because of Facebook reminders. “While the network’s push helped, users who saw that their closest friends had clicked an 'I voted' button on the site were even more likely to vote,” writes Ms. Hoover.
Other states are still sifting through the weekend data, according to The Hill. But many expect to set similar one-day records.