October 07, 2016
Elections in the Digital Age
Election officials are always looking for ways to promote democratic participation and boost voter turnout. In the 2012 Presidential election, 40% of eligible 18-29 year olds cast their vote, and as officials prepare their jurisdictions for Election Day this November, they are making a special effort to bring more young voters to the polls. In a world with 2.3 billion active social media users, there is major outreach potential on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Counties across the United States are taking advantage of millennials’ tech fixation to make a positive change.
Who's doing it well?
Palm Beach County, FL Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher, has made it her mission to make all voting processes easy and accessible for voters, so she utilizes social media platforms to promote important election news to Palm Beach residents. The county’s Facebook page shares information on voter registration, upcoming deadlines and polling place locations to its more than 700 fans.
Their YouTube channel includes videos in both English and Spanish in an effort to be more inclusive. In June of this year, The Sun Sentinel reported on why Bucher decided to amplify social media use in the months leading up to the 2016 Presidential election. To them she said, “That’s the way many people are communicating. It was only smart for us to do it. [. . .] If we are not providing the information in the form they are getting their information, we are going to miss them.” Bucher refuses to let oblivion keep people from casting a ballot so she is proactively educating voters on Election Day basics.
In Georgia, the Richmond County Board of Elections uses social and mobile platforms to reach voters. Sample ballots, district maps, voting results and polling place information is available through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now a free mobile app called GA Votes. By downloading GA Votes, Android and iPhone users are able to find their assigned polling location and register to vote.
How you can do it too.
For election officials that need help connecting with voters online, county officials from Hillsborough County, FL; Inyo County, CA and Cook County, IL have partnered with the Center for Technology and Civic Life to create the Election Toolkit. This toolkit, published online at electiontools.org, features communication tips recommended and tested by election officials. The Twitter guide for election officials, which is a piece within the Toolkit, walks the reader through creating a Twitter account, organizing a content calendar and utilizing Twitter terminology. It also provides sample tweets grouped by election topic so election officials are able to start populating their feeds. If officials still need ideas, the EAC website has a list of state and local election office social media accounts so election administrators can check out what other counties are doing to reach voters.
To better serve the voting population, ES&S encourages election officials to engage with their followers on social media. A two-way social media relationship between the sender and the receiver drives trust and leads to better reception of the information being shared. One way to do this is to create a #hashtag for officials as well as the voting population to use throughout the election season. Social media users will have a uniform way to find informative content posted by their county administrators across all platforms and officials can read and respond to the posts of the voters in their area.
With the Presidential election 31 DAYS AWAY, now is the time to reach out. As voters finalize their election decisions, officials must equip them with the tools to vote efficiently. More familiarity with election processes will assist with this and make for a smoother Election Day for all!