Facebook gives users local ballot guides in voting initiative

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Facebook rolled out a new feature today that gives users a full voter guide, from the presidential candidates to the down-ballot propositions and local politicians, in an effort to “encourage civic participation.” The feature allows users to “favorite” their chosen candidates and initiatives so they can refer to their favorites once they reach the voting booth.

As Facebook is careful to specify, this isn’t an electronic voting tool and the picks users make on Facebook don’t count in the actual election, but it is a way for voters to educate themselves about the presidential candidates as well as the other politicians and propositions on their ballots.

The vote planning feature is the latest of several election-oriented features that Facebook has introduced. Earlier this year, it’s register-to-vote feature was credited with a spike of 2 million people in voter registration, and the company also recently made it possible for political candidates to add their stances on issues and endorsements to their Facebook pages. But this is the first in-depth political feature from Facebook. While the feature will go live today, most users won’t start seeing it pop up in their newsfeeds until next week.

Prospective voters can review information about the candidates’ stances on the issues and view their endorsements, select their favorite candidates, and email their ballot choices to themselves for later reference. The endorsements and issues that Facebook rolled out last week will appear in the vote planning feature.

Many users have likely already made up their minds in the headline-grabbing presidential election, but may be unaware of the candidates running for their local city council, or local ballot initiatives. Users can also check to see who their friends are voting for if they are undecided about particular candidates or issues.

The vote planning tool will initially show information on presidential and statewide candidates — if users want to see information on local issues, they will need to enter their addresses. Facebook says it will discard all of the voting information after 60 days and won’t publish any polling data gathered from the tool.

Users can choose whether or not to make their picks private or allow their friends to view their choices on a case-by-case basis — so you can publicly endorse a proposition, but keep your presidential pick private.

“We want to make it easier for people who want to participate to do so, and to have a voice in the political process,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a blog post announcing the new feature.

The information on candidates and issues isn’t created by Facebook, which likely wants to avoid allegations of partisanship after its Trending Topics feature was accused of bias against conservative news outlets earlier in the election cycle. Instead, the data comes from the Center for Technology and Civic Life, a nonpartisan organization that has gathered ballot information from across the country. If users think any of the CTCL data is incorrect, they can report the error to Facebook.

Here’s how it works: