Students register to vote on Facebook

Now, social networking Web site can add another function to its list of features – voter registration.

With members including former Vice President Al Gore and Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), “We Will Rock the Vote: Register Now!” is no ordinary Facebook group.

Formed earlier this month, the group is part of a nationwide effort between Rock the Vote and Young Voter Strategies to encourage unregistered young people to sign up to vote online through Facebook. The group has more than 8,380 members.

“I am excited to see so many of you students signing up for this group and working to ensure politicians and pundits can no longer disregard young voters,” Gore wrote on the Facebook group’s message board last Sunday.

Rock the Vote is a nonpartisan political organization for young people, and Young Voter Strategies is a nonpartisan project through GW’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Though the Rock the Vote Facebook group’s original aim was to get young people registered to vote, the group’s organizers will soon shift their focus toward getting young people out and voting on Election Day, said

Hans Reimer, political director of Rock the Vote.

Reimer added that the idea to form the online group was not new to Rock the Vote. The organization worked with, another social networking Web site, during the 2004 presidential election.

According to Reimer, it was a chance meeting of Facebook executives and Rock the Vote staff that led to the unique group’s formation.

“It’s all about cracking the code and knowing how to politicize and publicize,” said Reimer, who added that in the future, Rock the Vote hopes to turn over control of their online content to their users.

Sophomore Jewel Jones found the Facebook group the same day she registered to vote on the Rock the Vote Web site. She said she initially visited the Rock the Vote Web site to get information about volunteering, but realized she could also use the site to register to vote online.

“The pop culture stuff and music relate more to my crowd. They make (voting) very appealing,” said Jones, referring to Rock the Vote’s Web site. “What’s really important is that you vote period. It doesn’t matter how you register, or who you vote for, what matters is that you vote.”

Kathleen Barr, media coordinator for Young Voter Strategies, described the Rock the Vote effort, which received funding from Young Voter Strategies, as an effective tool for reaching out to young people.

“This group and other initiatives across the country are helping us reach our goal of registering 350,000 young people to vote this year,” she said. “This is the largest investment for a get-out-the-vote program in a midterm election ever.”

The organization has registered an estimated 275,000 voters and is “definitely on track” to reaching their goal, Barr said.

Voter turnout among young people increased dramatically between the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Elections, said Barr.

According to figures taken from the Young Voter Strategies Web site, 20.1 million 18- to 29-year-olds cast their ballots in 2004, a 9 percent increase from the 2000 presidential election. Barr added, however, that only 8.9 million young voters, or 22 percent, turned out in the last midterm election in 2002. There are 42 million young voters eligible to vote in this November’s election.

The more important question, Barr said, is whether or not parties and candidates will turn out young voters on election day.

“Since 2004, many candidates are making overtures like never before to turn out young voters,” she said. “That is certainly a glimmer on the horizon.”

The University is also making strides to ensure that students vote this November. In a blast e-mail sent Oct. 13, the University ensured that correctly addressed absentee ballots would be delivered to students’ dorms within 24 hours of U.S. Postal Service delivery.

“We encourage students to vote and during this busy time of year we wanted to remind students to check the deadlines of individual states for when absentee ballots must be requested by,” said Matt Lindsay, assistant director of Media Relations.

He added that if correctly addressed, GW Mail Services will deliver postage within 24 hours of its arrival on campus.

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