You just turned 18. You haven’t registered to vote. You don’t know where or how to register to vote. Or, perhaps you live in one of the 22 states or the District of Columbia that have implemented automatic voter registration, and you don’t even realize you’ve already been opted-in. This is the kind of information routinely disseminated by local election offices across the country whose role is to administer state and federal elections and provide information on voting and elections to candidates, government officials and — most important — the public.
One of the most common questions from young voters is how to vote. Information about logistics such as polling places and party identification can be a major barrier to young people interested in voting. Yet, most election offices charged with sharing this information lack a social media presence, and by failing to establish one, they are missing an opportunity to get in front of an audience that’s more in need of such information than other demographic groups.
Online misinformation also needs to be taken into serious consideration. Social media can be beneficial for mobilizing young voters, but it also has its downfalls. Fake news spreads faster than real news on social media, and issues containing it have only worsened. The intent of many online campaigns is to suppress turnout on Election Day, especially among young people and communities of color. Election offices exist to clear up any existing confusion and provide voters with the bare bones of what they need to know to cast their ballots, but they cannot fight misinformation and champion voter education where the action is: online.
This is where nonpartisan organizations like IGNITE fill the gap. Local election offices simply don’t have the bandwidth or funding to meet young voters online, so over the years, we’ve partnered with groups far and wide to reach young voters in communities big and small.
If a local office does embrace social media, the only platform they’ll prioritize is Facebook, which falls well behind Gen Z’s preferred social networks of Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok. The platforms have ramped up efforts to politically inform voters, and while that should be applauded, the work cannot stop there.
There are various ways third-party organizations already meet young voters where they are with need-to-know information regarding coming elections. Whether it be holding live town halls on Instagram or TikTok to take questions from followers, constantly sharing reminders of registration deadlines, or even distributing information about what will be on the ballot when voters head to their polling place.
Gen Z is less attached to political parties and more likely to be concerned about issues directly impacting their lives and communities. They benefit from direct sources providing information about those issues or arguments directly to their social media feeds. It keeps them in the know, and if they choose to repost or share, it spreads this information further.
Third-party organizations and influencers also possess the advantage of not being required to stick to a script. They can playfully change the tone of their content and follow trends to stay relevant among their targeted audience of young voters. Yes, election offices should start planning where and how they can best reach the next generation, but meanwhile, third-party organizations are filling the gap to help us best support our youngest electorate today. Nonpartisan organizations play a crucial role amid the proliferation of politically motivated misinformation campaigns.
At IGNITE, during our #IGNITEtheVote campaign, we encourage our base to share images of themselves voting. It informs their friends of an election, builds a trend and spreads the word even further if their friends decide to follow suit. During the 2020 election, we could reach more than 6.5 million young people and over provide voting resources to more than 50,000 Americans.
The midterm elections are just around the corner. Election officials around the country face budget woes, staffing pressures and threats to their safety. Young voters would benefit from having a more active social media presence, and by investing in such groups, we can bridge that gap and mobilize an entire generation to act.