Eligible citizens in the state of Washington can now register to vote online using Facebook, according to CNN.
The social media giant, in collaboration with the Evergreen State and Microsoft, will launch the new MyVote app on the secretary of state’s Facebook page as soon as next week, says Washington Co-Director of Elections Shame Hamlin.
When launched, the app will allow Facebook to use user info to automatically fill out portions of the voter registration form. The user will then enter his or her driver’s license or state ID card to verify their identities and complete the application. The app can also be used to update their personal info, access candidate info and ballot information, as well as order replacement ballots.
State officials will also be able to capitalize on Facebook’s ubiquity to track voter preferences through Facebook ‘likes’, conduct voter surveys, and generally measure trends and other aggregated information.
When asked about concerns over Facebook having access to voter information, Mr. Hamlin reassured voters that “Washington state is collecting the voter information, not Facebook.”
As the 2012 election draws near, concerns about voter registration are surfacing. Most concerns stem from the antiquated, mostly paper-based registration systems used by states. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that almost 51 million eligible citizens- almost 24 percent of the eligible population- have not registered to vote. Almost 2 million deceased individuals are registered. Approximately 12 million records have inaccurate addresses, making it unlikely that voting materials will reach those individuals.
“Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” said David Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”
Recent problems with antiquated voter registration procedures have sparked partisan ire. A botched attempt to purge voter rolls in Florida using old driver’s license applications has drawn a lawsuit from the Justice Department, which questions the legality and fairness of Florida’s purge process.
A related report by Pew in 2008 also shows that American registration procedures are costly. Oregon taxpayers spent an average of $4.11 on voter registration, compared to $0.35 per voter in Canada, which uses more modern technology to register voters.
When American localities do use more updated registration procedures, the results have been positive. In Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes Phoenix), online registration has saved the state over $1 million over five years, according to the Pew report.
“Proven solutions and technology are already in place in many government offices and the private sector, and states can use them to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of their systems,” said Mr. Becker.
For its part, Washington state has used online voter registration since 2008. Over 500,000 registrations and address changes have been processed using that system, says Mr. Hamlin.