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Can Facebook India Convince 17 Million New Voters To Register?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, September 9 2013

Screenshot of the Facebook India announcement

Last week the Times of India announced that they are collaborating with Facebook in their campaign to enroll voters, especially young voters. Facebook India users will now have the option of adding 'Registered to Vote' to their Facebook profile, under the section for Life Events – Travel & Experiences.

On their website, The Times of India staff wrote:

The youth in particular, we believe, can play a big role in cleansing our polity, ridding it of the cynicism that has taken such deep roots and truly empowering the aam admi [“common man”]. It is as a result of this conviction that we have in the past launched campaigns like Lead India and I Lead India. Today, it is in the same spirit that we join hands with Facebook India to start a campaign to appeal to people to register to vote and ultimately to vote too.

This was followed by instructions on registering for the electoral rolls. India's general election will take place next year. The Times of India's get-out-the-vote style campaign targets the roughly 17 million potential first-time voters in India.

In a statement last Thursday, Facebook India said, “In an effort to encourage more Indian citizens to vote in the upcoming elections, starting today, you can add to your timeline as a life event that you registered to vote, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to register.”

A study conducted in 2010 in the United States showed how Facebook can boost voter turnout, especially when the endorsement (of voting—not a specific candidate) comes from friends. The Times of India is counting on this social pressure to get people first to register, and then to vote.

Earlier this year, Facebook was less than eager to collaborate with Croatian activists on a similar voting initiative. TechPresident's Micah Sifry reached out to contacts at the company and received the following response: "Unfortunately our tool we use for elections is currently broken and being fixed. Apologies and thanks for the email."

This may or may not have something to do with the fact that Croatia boasts only 1.5 million Facebook users as of September 2012, whereas India has more than 82 million Facebook users.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.