A new “Commit to Vote” application on Facebook is spreading like wildfire.
The app, targeted at American citizens ahead of the November mid-term elections, lets Facebook users make a pledge to vote, share their reason for doing so, and compete with friends to inspire the most number of people also committing to vote.
At the time of writing, the app had 316,857 monthly active users and a four-star rating based on 85 reviews. A further 6,814 people had ‘liked’ the application page.
The application development was paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee. Clicking on ‘go to application’ takes you to a page on the BarackObama.com site. The developers are listed as Jim Pugh and Alexander McCormach whose Facebook profiles link them with the Democratic National Committee and/or Obama for America.
However, the application itself is not partisan. It doesn’t tell people how to vote, merely encourages them to exercise their democratic right to do so. There’s no reason why a Republican supporter couldn’t use the app to try to encourage their friends to vote with them.
I come from Australia, a country where it’s compulsory to vote because it’s considered a democratic responsibility as much as a democratic right. We have a secret ballot – in fact, we invented the secret ballot – so people can spoil their ballot paper if they truly don’t want to vote, but they do have to show up at the polling booth. It’s not always strictly enforced but voting is the cultural norm so we have turn-out rates over 95%. As you might imagine, the idea of having to spend money just to get people to vote is a little foreign to me.
However, I think that high voter turnout is a good thing and an application like this is a good way to encourage it, no matter which side of politics paid for it happen.
I would sign up for the app myself but since I’m a non-citizen living in the United States on a work visa, I don’t have the right to vote. Note to ‘tea party’ types – I guess this means I have taxation without representation. Should I go throw my tea in the San Francisco Bay? (Boston Harbor is a bit far away).