I. In Focus This Week
News Analysis: Voter registration numbers soar
Social media helps break registration records
By M. Mindy Moretti
With the 2016 general election about a month way and the first voter registration deadlines just around the corner, it’s been a record-breaking voter registration week for states and counties across the country.
On September 23 Washington State saw a record one-day registration spike of 14,824 new registrants with nearly 13,000 of those via the state’s online portal MyVote — which was the second most for a single day since the portal launched.
The spike follows a prompt from Facebook which urged Washington residents aged 18 and older to register to vote and included a link to connect people to the state’s online voter registration system.
Dave Ammons, spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State’s office said that the previous single-day registration record was 13,109 on March 18, was also prompted by Facebook.
“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote. This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s Product Manager for civic engagement.
In Indiana, following the Facebook prompt, 30,000 residents registered to vote between September 23 and September 26.
“Since Facebook launched its online campaign to remind Hoosiers to register to vote, we have seen substantially higher than normal online registrations,” Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a statement. “Friday was the third highest daily total ever for online registrations. I appreciate Facebook’s willingness to use its platform to encourage everyone to vote and hope Hoosiers continue to do so.”
Minnesota is also seeing record-breaking voter registration numbers. In one week, the state saw nearly 47,000 new voter registrations with almost 27,000 of those coming on Friday the 23 which was the largest single-day number of online voter registrations the state has seen.
“I’m challenging the people of Minnesota to return our state back to number one in voter turnout in the country, and these historic online voter registration numbers are a positive sign that Minnesotans are preparing to step up to the challenge,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement.
While not quite record-breaking nearly 10,000 Nebraskans also registered to vote between Sept. 23-26 and state officials are giving credit to Facebook. On Sept. 23, about 6,800 people registered to vote using the state’s online voter registration system. The day before, only 378 people registered to vote.
“Compared to the previous day, voter registrations on NEReg2Vote jumped by 1,707 percent on Friday, September 23,” Secretary of State John Gale said in a statement. “That’s a tremendous hit…”
In addition to the Facebook push, the Google Doodle on Monday was about registering to vote. In Washington, that resulted in 3,910 logins to MyVote, 1692 percent higher than the daily average of 242 hits from google.com, Ammons said.
In California, data from Google Trends reveals that California’s searches for information related to voter registration in the state has grown over 230% compared to 2012.
Of course social media isn’t the only thing driving voter registration.
Mesa County, Colorado Clerk and Recorder Shelia Reiner said voter registration in the county is at all-time high and she attributes some of that spike to ballot questions.
"We've got some heavy issues to consider, from the Colorado Care, the healthcare question, to marijuana questions that are in the local jurisdiction of Palisade," Reiner told WesternSlopeNow.
And in New Mexico the secretary of state’s office recently sent out 460,000 postcards to all eligible unregistered voters letting them know about the state’s online voter registration system.
Following the mailing, the secretary’s office saw a nearly eight-fold increase in weekly online voter registration and updates. Elections Director Kari Fresquez told the Las Cruces Sun-News online registrations and updates increased to 8,778 last week from 1,189 the previous week.
Will all the newly registered residents equal actual voters come Election Day? We asked the Washington Secretary of State’s office and their response is most likely.
Stuart Holmes, voting system information manager for the secretary’s office took a look at numbers from 2012 and while typically the longer a person is registered, the more likely they are to vote, the numbers also seem to show those who registered in August, September and October 2012 turned out at a higher rate than those who had registered earlier in the year.
So the turnout out Magic 8-ball says “signs point to yes” but only time — about 39 days depending on when you’re reading this — will tell.
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