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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Social media helps drive big increases in registered voters in Washington and Idaho

Rock the Vote tweeted voter registration reminders. (Rock the Vote)
Rock the Vote tweeted voter registration reminders. (Rock the Vote)

OLYMPIA – Washington voter rolls swelled by 50,000 in two days, aided by social media campaigns encouraging users to register to vote.

Voter registrations in Idaho last month were about 40,000 ahead of the same period last year, and could jump by another 50,000 registrations on Election Day because Idaho offers registration at the polls.

If historic trends hold, those new voters probably will cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election, said Stuart Holmes, of Washington’s elections office.

“People who register in August, September and October are much more likely to vote in November,” Holmes said. In Washington, newly registered voters receive the state voter’s guide in the mail, and then their ballot, which helps keeps voting top of mind, he added.

Using Washington’s registration website, a total of 27,601 people signed up to vote Monday, the final day to do so online or by mail. That was a new record, breaking one set just a day earlier by more than 4,000 registrations. In those two days alone, some 50,000 people registered to vote.

Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state in Idaho, said the state always sees a big jump in registrations in a presidential election year, but this year’s increases are helped by drives by the political parties and other organizations.

It’s a pattern that’s being repeated nationwide, with many newly registered voters reporting they were spurred to do so by social media.

In Washington, for example, many of the new voters who signed up on the state’s registration website said they were prompted by get-registered promotions on Facebook, Google’s Chrome browser, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media, Holmes said.

The Pandora music application also sent voter registration messages to some of its subscribers, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said, and Rock the Vote had registration drives.

Mike Ward, of Democracy Works, said Facebook has reminded members to register in the past but has refined its system this year. Reminders from Google and Snapchat are new this year. Some services can tailor a reminder to a member’s registration deadline, which varies from state to state.

“There’s a whole lot more in the way of reminding people to connect to registration by technology,” said Ward, program director for TurboVote, part of the national organization that tries to make registering and voting easier. Because of those additional efforts by social media and other organizations, he expects to see large increases in registration in the 16 states that had deadlines Tuesday.

The Washington elections office hasn’t had time to do any analysis of the new voters to determine if they are heavily weighted to a particular age group or area of the state, Holmes said.

This is the first time voter registrations have topped 4.2 million in Washington, which just went over the 4 million mark seven months ago.

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