(TNS) — It began last Friday: Tens of thousands of young Californians registering to vote online at a clip rarely seen in the state.
More than 123,270 California voters registered to vote or updated their registration status with the state Friday, according to data from the California secretary of state’s office. That’s more than five times more people than the day before and about a 13-fold increase from California’s daily average.
It was the fourth most active day California has seen since it opened its online voter registration tool four years ago. And it was only the beginning.
The spike in activity was fueled by voters aged 17 to 25, who accounted for more than 36 percent of the online voter activity, state data show. (Those who turn 18 by election day are eligible to register.) Secretary of State Alex Padilla credited Facebook and other social media with driving voters to sign up.
Facebook Effect in California
A call on the social network to register to vote drew a strong response.
Sept. 19 (Monday): 12,436
Sept. 20 (Tuesday): 13,377
Sept. 21 (Wednesday): 16,922
Sept. 22 (Thursday): 24,168
Sept. 23 (Friday): 123,279
Sept. 24 (Saturday): 43,888
Sept. 25 (Sunday): 29,256
Sept. 26 (Monday): 71,805
Sept. 27 (Tuesday): 103,816
Source: California Secretary of State
Over the next five days, more than 372,000 people registered or updated their voter status online — the kind of numbers California usually sees over the course of months, not days.
Other states observed similar trends. Georgia, perhaps the most dramatic example, saw a 2,225 percent jump in voter registrations on Sept. 23 from the same day last year.
Facebook’s voter push boosted registration in nearly all states that allow citizens to register online. This week, the Center for Election Innovation and Research noted voter registration spikes in 16 states and Washington, D.C.
To be fair, it’s been a busy week.
Last Friday, Facebook issued a reminder to all U.S. users over 18 that sent them to voter registration sites to update or check on their status. The reminders lasted through the weekend.
Google changed its home page Monday to a cartoon depicting voting machines and a message encouraging visitors to “register to vote” in several languages and linking to step-by-step registration instructions.
Then came Monday night’s presidential face-off between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the general election debate.
Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, during which several tech companies started their own get-out-the-vote initiatives.
Twitter launched a feature that allowed users to send a direct message to the company’s own government and elections team, @Gov, with their ZIP code to receive an automated response that informed users of their state’s voter registration deadline and a link to register. On-demand delivery company DoorDash hand-delivered registration forms to customers on Tuesday. Hashtagged posts declaring #Iregistered to celebrate #VoterRegistrationDay abounded on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and more.
But of all the days, secretary of state data show, Friday’s Facebook push moved the numbers the most.
“On Friday, none of those other things had happened yet, so when we saw such a dramatic increase in registration, we knew it had to be Facebook. That was the only element at play,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “It was a big first step.”
Other states saw similar trends.
Kentucky officials declared it a “historic registration drive” after 25,000 state residents registered or updated their status. Nebraska’s secretary of state called its uptick of nearly 10,000 registrations “tremendous.” Rhode Island, whose online voter registration system has been active since August 1, saw more than a third of the total number of voters who signed up via the website do so in the past week.
“Registering to vote is the first step to becoming an active voter,” Padilla said in a statement. “For many who may be new to the political process, an invitation to register can be a powerful nudge to get involved. Facebook has demonstrated the power of social media to engage more people to register to vote, helping thousands take a big step to casting a ballot this November.”
Last Friday was the first time Facebook had rolled out a national reminder for adults in all 50 states. The social media site had previously presented a tool to encourage voters in states that do not allow for election-day registration to sign up to vote in the presidential primaries.
California was among them.
Facebook has offered election-day reminders to vote since 2008.
The company sees its efforts to encourage users to register as an extension of the same civic duty.
“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote. This is the natural next step,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement, said in a statement. “We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them.”
During the 2012 general election cycle, about 65 percent of voting-age citizens were registered.
Little more than half of eligible American voters — 53.6 percent, according to the Pew Research Center — cast a ballot in 2012.
“You have to be registered to cast a ballot in the first place,” Mahood said. “We still have some time before (California’s) deadline. ... We’re hoping as people start tuning into the election, they’re going to get more engaged.”
Nearly 6 million Americans missed the 2008 election because they didn’t know how to register or missed the deadline , according to National Voter Registration Day organizers.
In California, according to the figures from July 7, the state’s most recent, about 6.7 million eligible voters remain unregistered. Officials hope harnessing the power of social media may help close that gap.
California’s deadline to register to vote is Oct. 24.©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle. Visit the San Francisco Chronicle at www.sfgate.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.