Getting Out the Vote … On the Internet
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been lost in the Amazon rainforest for the past two years, then you know this country is in the midst of a pretty intense election season.
With dismal voter turnout in the past (an estimated 57.5 percent of eligible voters in 2012), it seems that officials on both sides of the political aisle are anxious to get people to vote. While the candidates are aggressively targeting potential voters through the Internet, the Internet itself has come up with some tech-savvy, nonpartisan ways to get people to the polls.
Modeled similarly to TurboTax, TurboVote is dedicated to making voting easy. It’s an online app (currently available on desktop only) that tracks registration information for all 50 states, including vote-by-mail options. TurboVote then sends users the necessary forms with stamped envelopes. Users can also sign up for text and email reminders about deadlines and upcoming elections.
In an effort to reach even more people, TurboVote recently partnered with Snapchat for a “swipe to register” feature. Yes, that means you can post a snap and register to vote — if only everything were that easy. While TurboVote works with many organizations and institutions, it is unique in that it encrypts user connections to the website, ensuring that your sign-up information is not shared with third parties.
Tired of seeing politics in your Facebook feeds? Well, expect a lot more — in a good way. Facebook recently launched a nationwide voter registration drive to encourage users to register and spread the word to their Facebook friends. Users receive a notification asking them if they have registered. If they haven’t, then they are directed to the federal government website to complete the process. They can then share their status on their page, including a fun, voting-themed bug to get everyone in the patriotic spirit. With this drive, Facebook is tapping into the social side of politics without stirring up those angry posts your great aunt likes to comment on.
While you are sure to see candidate ads galore in between your favorite YouTube videos, the platform also has a host of educational videos to help citizens get ready for the election. A new YouTube channel, “How to Vote in Every State” does exactly as its name suggests: teach users what is needed from them in order to get a voting card from their hometown, featuring a video for each state. Created by John and Hank Green, two of YouTube’s oldest and most popular Creators (also known as the Vlogbrothers), each video is injected with a hint of the brothers’ beloved personalities, making the often-boring topic of voting both entertaining and informative.
Want to know how to register? Just Google it. The search engine now delivers an interactive widget within the results of those searching for information about voting. The widget is customized to your location, because Google already knows where you’re located. With one simple search, users can learn how, where and when to register.
Yahoo and Bing both have similar forms, but Bing went one step further and partnered with Rock the Vote to provide access to a registration form right in the results. Whichever search engine you use, you’re sure to find the information you seek with a simple click.
The Skimm is a daily e-newsletter with a hip, millennial voice, and an even hipper audience base. For the past several months it’s not only provided readers with information on candidates, election issues and primary results, but it’s also partnered with Rock the Vote to provide Skimm the Vote, a streamlined microsite that gets you registered and keeps you informed. It’s doing what many of the other sites are doing, but Skimm’s relatable language and targeted audience segment sets it apart.
HelloVote is a chatbot that is great for people on the go — or people who use their phone for everything. Just submit your phone number and it will guide you through the voter registration process in a series of texts. HelloVote will even fill out the forms for you. You can also access the bot through the Facebook Messenger app. By keeping mobile-focused, this chatbot truly taps into the mobile generation. (Note: HelloVote is also the only app/platform we’ve seen that avoids the use of red and blue. Purple is both eye-catching and exceptionally neutral.)
With state deadlines rapidly approaching, many Americans are running out of time to register. Regarding all of these digital helpers, only time will tell if any of the efforts have been successful … and only the election results will reveal how many of the newly-registered people show up on Election Day to let their voice be heard. One thing is for sure: between videos, search results, apps and platforms, if you aren’t registered to vote by November, it isn’t the Internet’s fault.