Tech Giants Push Voter Registration

Facebook, Twitter, and Google want you to register to vote.

Rather than waiting outside a grocery store or a train station, the tech giants are targeting potential voters on the Internet.

Facebook is encouraging people to register to vote with a News Feed notification and a “Register Now” button that takes users to vote.usa.gov. The social media giant also used the button during the primaries and registered an estimate 1.5 million new voters, according to USA TODAY.

After registering to vote, Facebook encourages users to share the news in a status update, using a bit of social pressure to encourage others to register to vote.

“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.

Twitter also launched its own voter registration program on Tuesday.

Any U.S. citizen can now receive personalized information on how to register to vote via Direct Message (DM). Any citizen can send a private DM with their ZIP code to Twitter’s @Gov handle and in return, they will receive an automatic DM with their state’s voter registration deadline and a personalized link to get registered.

Twitter’s program will expand as the election draws closer. In a blog post, Twitter explained the social media company’s partnership with Pew’s Voting Information Project and Google’s Information Civic Application Program Interface will power the @Gov account to answer additional questions from voters, like polling place location and ballot information.

As with Facebook, Twitter encourages those registered to vote to share the news and encourage others to vote. By using the hashtag #iRegistered, a special emoji will autoappear and will link to register to vote.

Google is also getting in on the voter registration action. Since those looking to register to vote are likely to turn to Google for more information, the search engine has beefed up its response to commonly searched voter registration terms. Google added state-by-state information when people look up “registration” and “how to vote” in both English and Spanish. While English language voter registration information is nothing new on the search engine, it is now specifically targeting Spanish-speaking voters.

“We’re doing our part to encourage American voters to get registered for the 2016 election. We’ve already added in-depth information in Search for registration and how to vote, and now we’re adding this same information in Spanish. Now both Spanish and English speakers will be able to get custom, state-by-state information on key registration deadlines, when to get to the polls, and even steps on how to vote early or by mail. We hope this feature helps simplify the registration process for more American voters,” said Jonathan Betz, engineering manager, civic engagement, Google, in a blog post.

The Get Out the Vote push isn’t just limited to companies helping people register to vote. There is also growing emphasis on having employers give employees time off on Election Day to actually head to the polls.

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, Tory Burch, founder and CEO of her eponymous fashion label, called for companies to give employees time off on Election Day so they could vote.

“As the CEO of a company, I can ensure that our employees have one less impediment to voting—time off to vote. We are giving our employees time off on Election Day, Nov. 8, and we are making voter registration materials and information available. We call on our fellow corporate citizens to do the same. #TimeOffToVote,” Burch wrote.

Other companies have answered Burch’s call. Edelman is opening its offices at 11:30 a.m. on Election Day so employees can vote before heading in. S’well, an eco-friendly water bottle company, is giving employees the whole day off on Election Day to vote and volunteer.

For more on voting, check out our special report on Election Day security, including whether or not voting systems are vulnerable, new technology in the voting booth, and securing overseas ballots.  Also, learn more about a text message service that helps register voters.

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is 21st Century State & Local's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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