By Molly Voit
The United States is less than a year away from electing its next president. When the 2020 election occurs, there will be a swath of newly eligible voters, including many of LREI’s graduating class who are beginning to register to vote this year. While many first-time voters register through paper forms given out at marches, by their school, or found through their own initiative, social media has also had a surprising influence on voter registration. In a time when our lives are increasingly digital–we socialize and access information primarily online–social media platforms can serve as a unique tool to engage its users and help them contribute their voice in selecting figures in our government.
The New York Times reported that before the 2018 midterm elections, Snapchat helped over 400,000 users register to vote in just two weeks. Since 78% of 18-24 year old Americans use Snapchat, according to the Pew Research Center, the platform could access thousands of eligible voters and help make voter registration more accessible. Snapchat’s Public Policy team first partnered with Democracy Works, a non-partisan, non-profit organization working to make “voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election,” as is said on its website. Snapchat inserted a link to TurboVote in users’ profiles, an online service associated with Democracy Works where people can register to vote, sign up for election reminders, apply for absentee ballots, and access other voting information including polling locations. Additionally, they sent video messages to all American users over 18 years old. In addition to voter registration, over 600,000 Snapchat users signed up to receive election reminders, further engaging and educating young Americans. According to Snapchat, many of the individuals they reached were from battleground states including Texas, Florida, and Georgia.
Why did this social media platform make the effort to encourage young Americans to vote? Snapchat’s global head of public policy, Jennifer Sout, shared, “Voting is one of the most important forms of self-expression we have, and we’re committed to empowering our community to register and vote for their chosen representatives.” Snapchat not only helped individuals become empowered and contribute their voice, but they may also have pushed users who may otherwise have limited their activism to online (through reposting news events or following activist Instagram accounts) to use their citizenship in other ways.
Looking ahead to the upcoming presidential election, a significant and highly publicized election, will Snapchat make similar efforts? Will other social media platforms join in?
Image source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/25/snapchat-vote/