State to unveil voter registration on Facebook

Application on social media site may launch next week, agency says

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OLYMPIA -- Facebook users in Washington state will have something else to brag about to their online friends: that they registered to vote on Facebook.

The secretary of state's office said Tuesday that it will have an application on its Facebook page that allows residents to register to vote, then "like" the application and recommend it to their friends. It's expected to launch as early as next week.

"In this age of social media and more people going online for services, this is a natural way to introduce people to online registration and leverage the power of friends on Facebook to get more people registered," said Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections.

Washington state has had online registration since 2008, and since then, there have been 475,000 registrations or changes of address processed through the system. Washington is one of more than a dozen states that offer online registration.

Hamlin said Washington state is the first to offer voter registration via Facebook.

"We are excited that citizens in Washington state will be able to register to vote and review useful voting information on Facebook," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes.

The state, Facebook and Microsoft, which developed the application, have been collaborating on the project since the fall, Hamlin said. Once it's running, Facebook users can click on the app on the secretary of state's Facebook page. They'll need to agree to let Facebook access their information, which will be used to prefill their name and date of birth in the voter registration form. Users will still need to provide a driver's license or state ID card number to continue.

Hamlin said that Facebook doesn't have access to the state's database. And beyond giving Facebook permission to use names and dates of birth, voters don't need to worry about their personal information being collected by Facebook, Hamlin added.

"You are giving your information to us, not Facebook," he said.

Voters also will be able to access the state's My Vote site, which contains information on candidates and ballot measures, from the secretary of state's Facebook page.