Will Snapchat, Twitter and Taylor Swift get more college voters to the polls?

Cathryn Perini

Voting registration has never been easier now that Instagram and Snapchat have taken matters into their own hands. With reminders and direct links, social media platforms are encouraging users to register to vote.

“Because ideally, our society wants people to have a voice, and when you have the ability to open doors for people, and you want those people to engage, you do it,” said Stephen Haggerty, a faculty lecturer and CIS 111 Coordinator for UK’s School of Information Science in the College of Communication & Information.

Influential people have begun to publicly take political stands, and more importantly, sides.

Kanye West has spent some time on Twitter (and in person) endorsing President Donald Trump. According to the New Yorker, Kanye referenced Trump as a validation for his masculinity.

Taylor Swift took to Instagram to convince her followers to vote. She also declared her political beliefs and said that she has always voted for the candidate that protects the people, especially the LGBT+ community.

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” Swift’s Instagram post said.

According to USA Today, Vote.org reported that more than 65,000 people registered to vote in reaction to Swift’s Instagram post.

Snapchat gave users the ability to register to vote directly through the app. Voting is one of the most important forms of self-expression we have in America, according to Snap Inc.’s website.

According to Pew Research Center, 78 percent of 18-24 year olds use Snapchat, and 71 percent of users visit the platform more than once per day.

Snapchat’s user profile page included a Register to Vote! button prior to National Voter Registration Day. Snapchat used a system called TurboVote, which helps users register to vote, receive election reminders and apply and receive an absentee ballot.

Instagram didn’t provide the direct ability to register in the app, but the app connected users with the information they need to properly register. On Nov. 6, they will provide an ‘I Voted’ camera sticker so users can share their voting story.

According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, 22 percent of registered voters tell others if and how they voted through a social media platform, while 20 percent of registered voters have previously encouraged others to vote on social media.

In Kentucky, turnout for the 2018 primary elections amounted to only 14.1 percent of female registered voters between the ages 17-24 and 12.7 percent of male registered voters of the same age group. Comparatively, 32.6 percent of registered females and 37.1 percent of registered males of the 62+ age group voted. Social media still has some work to do on its target age group.

“People need to do better and be better and care more about their future,” said Victoria Cruz-Falk, a UK junior and International Studies and Spanish double major, in response to low voter turnout in her age group.

However, many other platforms, including Facebook, have reminded users to register to vote, and their efforts have been effective.

Nearly 3,000 people in Fayette County have registered to vote since August. Only 9,000 have registered to vote since January of 2017.

As part of National Voter Registration Day, 800,000 people nationally registered to vote. According to Time, the National Voter Registration Day campaign aimed to register 300,000 people. The actual figure far exceeded their expectations.

National Voter Registration Day wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote, according to its website.

To register to vote in Kentucky in the future, one must be a U.S. citizen and a Kentucky resident for at least 28 days, be at least 18 years old (an exception is made for seventeen-year-olds who will be 18 before the General Election), not be a convicted felon, not be mentally incompetent and not claim voting rights outside of Kentucky, according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky State Board of Elections.

This year’s midterm election will take place on Nov. 6.