Analysis

Voting Information Is Easy to Find in Social Media-Saturated Election

This year, social media companies are prompting voters—or prospective voters—to register to vote, find their polling locations, and make a plan for Election Day. Indeed, while online or using a smartphone, learning about casting a ballot in the 2016 election is easier than ever.

As part of this trend, four companies—Facebook, Foursquare, Weather Underground, and Etsy—have partnered with Get to the Polls an effort of the Voting Information Project (VIP) to help voters access information about polling locations, hours of operation, early voting, and ballot summaries:

  • For four days in September, Facebook asked U.S. users, “Are you registered to vote?” at the top of their newsfeeds and provided a link for users to check their registration status or register to vote. This led to a significant one-day increase in voter registration. Facebook has also posted a vote planner, a new feature that allows users to preview ballots, learn about candidates and their positions, and email themselves their choices—all right from their own feeds.

This week, Facebook encouraged users to “Vote Early and Skip the Lines,” sending notifications to people in states with early voting options and directing them to Get to the Polls for details.

  • Foursquare, a company known for providing entertainment and social recommendations based on user preferences and locations, has developed a tool that coordinates users’ home addresses with their polling places as well as nearby coffee shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.  The map continuously updates as states finalize polling locations and, in some instances, also shows where voters can go to cast their ballots early.
  • Voters checking the weather on Nov. 8—or before—will also be reminded to go vote. Weather Underground, a company devoted to providing weather data around the world, is offering polling place details and directions, courtesy of Get to the Polls, along with its forecasts on Election Day.
  • Etsy, a site that features homemade goods and furnishings, also reminds viewers of their role in democracy. A mauve-colored banner at the bottom of the home page reads: “America Votes on November 8. Don’t forget to cast your ballot. Find out how.” When users click on the prompt, they are directed to the Get to the Polls map, which identifies polling locations based on any entered address.

VIP is a partnership between The Pew Charitable Trusts, Google, and the states, along with the Internet Association and the world’s top technology companies.

Alexis Schuler is the senior director and Monica Leibovitz is an officer for election initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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