Here at Rock the Vote, we don't talk about going viral. It's like bad karma. Sure, we want voter registration to be a viral phenomenon; we want to pass some tipping point when all of a sudden every American between the ages of 18-29 will magically go online to www.rockthevote.com and register. But as any political activist knows, getting people registered and getting them to the polls is hard work.
Two weeks ago, we launched a Rock the Vote Facebook application. At a time when young people are more connected than ever through the internet, it should make getting young people registered and out to vote just a little easier.
The Rock the Vote app lets users publicly pledge to vote, by adding the app to their profile. Pledged voters can then take the next step, by recruiting friends to join their Facebook precinct. Anyone can encourage their Facebook friends to vote, and message their friends with polling information, registration deadlines -- even links to register to vote online. We are taking the idea of a precinct and applying it to an online community, giving people the tools to register and turnout their friends through peer-to-peer contact on Facebook.
In most elections, precincts are built around the idea of physical communities. A precinct captain will round up all the voters in a certain neighborhood, distribute lawn signs and drive neighbors to the polling place. This year, Rock the Vote is expanding the definition of precinct. You can be responsible for getting your friends from college, your coworkers, people you haven't seen since summer camp in middle school, and that guy you met at that party last week out to the polls this November. You can turn out the vote from Hawaii to Maine, all from your laptop with the new Rock the Vote Facebook application.
We all know someone who doesn't vote. Someone who isn't inspired by the 6.7 million young people who voted in this year's primaries. But that person probably has a Facebook profile.