Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Washington is developing a reputation in the elections and tech community for pioneering work in reaching potential voters online and through social media. The latest example is the state’s partnership with Microsoft to create an app that links Facebook users with our MyVote online service for voter registration and information.
With strong cooperation from Facebook, the app was launched on Aug. 6, following considerable national advance national buzz as a fresh way to use the power of social media and networking to nudge people to take part in their government by voting.
Although people of all ages regularly use Facebook, I am particularly delighted at the prospect of another platform to reach our “Millennials,” people from 18 to 29. This is a mobile and elusive population that often lags in getting registered and following through with marking their ballots. Of all age sectors, our Millennials have the lowest participation rate. I have made it a high priority to seek ways to engage our youngest voters, including visits to 42 college campuses this spring and working with campus leaders on civic engagement.
Along with many of us, young people are doing multimedia, bill-paying and purchasing online, and then talking about it on Facebook. They may or may not respond to traditional paper-based registration drives. This reality underscores the beauty of the MyVote app. It gives many unregistered Washington residents a secure and convenient way to move directly to our registration-and-information site, prompted by the app and the attention drawn by other friends on Facebook. The message of good citizenship is amplified by Facebook friends calling attention to their own use of the app and getting signed up to vote.
We estimate that there are 2 million eligible Washington citizens who are not registered to vote, and hope that some of these will respond to the new app by the Oct. 8 deadline for online registration in time to qualify to vote in the amazing 2012 General Election.
Selected Facebook profile information can be transferred to the MyVote system with the user’s permission. Facebook users may choose to “like” or “recommend” the app to their friends, helping to expand the use of online registration and spread the word about the services available through MyVote. Facebook is not collecting information the user submits to MyVote. Information goes one direction, to our site. It is secure.
The MyVote app can be found on my Facebook http://tinyurl.com/8d2cbrx, the Washington State Elections Division’s Facebook page http://tinyurl.com/8zcxcrs, and on the Elections Division website http://tinyurl.com/3yl3qh5.