If you see your friends are registered to vote, you might register too and be more likely to actually cast your ballot. So in hopes of making us better citizens, Facebook now lets you declare you’re “registered to vote” through a new Timeline event.
U.S. residents can use the personalized shortcut link in Facebook’s announcement of the feature, or find “Registered To Vote” in the ‘Travel & Experiences’ category of the Life Events tab on their Timeline’s post composer. You can add where and when you registered plus fill in an optional box of details like what party you support to rally your network to cast their vote.
We’ve talked to Facebook’s politics team, who take a very “techno-utopian” perspective. Essentially they think that Facebook’s mission to make everyone more open and connected will have the side effect of increasing civic engagement. People want to be involved in their government, but knowing their friends are taking action can push them over the hurdles of voter registration and going to the polls.
The question is whether Facebook news feed stories and reminders will actually increase voter turnout come election day. One study of 61 million people showed that seeing a story noting that friends had voted did get more people to cast their ballot in the 2010 mid-term election, but the increase was just 2.2%. That’s significant but it won’t necessarily change who becomes President.
Then again, with 12 states now allowing online voter registration, today’s new Timeline event has a lot more potential to actually get people signed up..if they can make their way from Facebook to their state’s website.
Facebook already offers a geo-personalized link to your state’s online voter registration website (if one exists) when you go to add the Timeline event. A great start. But Facebook should consider going the next step and showing those same links on the actual news feed stories generated by the Timeline events, so friends can get set up to make their voices heard in November.