Washington registers to vote on Facebook

The state of Washington was the first state to offer online voter registration in 2008.  The state's website features an online portal called MyVote, which helped get the state's residents registered online.   Washington is now, in 2012, taking that functionality to the next level by incorporating the same online registration functionality into Facebook, using the site's social capital to get more voters registered.

The MyVote registration site helps residents of Washington learn:

1.) Whether they are registered to vote, and if not, allowing them to register and/or update their addresses;

2.) See their candidates and ballot measures;

3.) Figure out what places they can return their ballots; and

4.) See who their elected officials are.

The capability to register online has proven popular, especially with younger voters.  According to The National Journal, Washington has processed almost half a million voter registrations online since the program started.  Of those numbers, 62% of registrants were under the age of 34.  Now that functionality is being integrated into Facebook, with Washington's Secretary of State's Facebook page soon to feature a MyVote app that users can install to register to vote.  The app has two advantages: 1.) it will use Facebook's user data to automatically populate certain fields, thus making registration simpler and 2.) Facebook's social properties can, perhaps, drive greater registration by allowing friends to influence friends to register to vote conveniently.  Liking the page, for example, will create social ripples throughout Facebook by advertising the activity in newsfeeds.  Combine that attribute with the low barrier to entry, and more voters--especially young ones--are likely to get registered to vote.

The MyVote app is a collaborative project between Facebook, Microsoft (who developed the app), and the state of Washington.  As Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections informed The Huffington Post, the app doesn't send information to Facebook.  The app takes data on Facebook and imports the information into some fields, but the new information goes only to the state database.