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electionlineWeekly — May 24 2018

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I. In Focus This Week

NASS New Voter Forum
One-day conference focused on best practices for young people and others

This week, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) held a New Voter Forum in Washington, D.C. The forum focused on voter outreach, education and best practices geared towards young people, minorities, active duty military and the disabled communities.

Over the last year, Americans have seen the impacts of new, young adults becoming engaged in the issues this country faces as well as the electoral process. According to Maria Benson, director of communications, NASS and its members believe it should embrace and assist them in becoming registered voters. It is also important to reach all voters to ensure that they understand where to vote, the mechanics of voting and when to vote.

“The NASS New Voter Forum was an exciting and significant conversation to have because it focused on some of the hardest constituencies for secretaries of state and stakeholder groups to reach including overseas, military, first-time, disabled, minority and young voters,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos. Condos is also the current president-elect of NASS. “Voting is the very core of our democracy and reaching out to new voters is so important, especially as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections.”

The five panels of the day discussed best practices and experiences from across the country in reaching the new voters that have unique challenges when it comes to registering and ultimately voting. The panels included: Accessible Voting Initiatives, Improving the Voting Process for Overseas Voters, Active Duty Military and Veterans, How Social Media and Technology Can Aid in Registering and Educating New voters, Outreach to Minority Voters, Modernizing our Democracy to Engage First-time Voters and Students; and INSPIRE U.S.-Making an Impact on Youth Voting Across the Country.

C-Span carried three of the panels live and they are still viewable with transcription available. The links to the recorded panels are above.

“It was great that C-SPAN was able to cover a portion of this event and archive it for all interested state and local election officials and other stakeholders to review who were unable to attend this important meeting in person,” said Michelle Shafer, a long-time elections technology consultant.

One of the sessions available for viewing is the Improving the Voting Process for Overseas Voters, Active Duty Military and veterans. The session was moderated by David Beirne, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Speakers included Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Mike Queen, deputy chief of staff and communications director in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office and Kamanzi Kalisa, director of the Overseas Voting Initiative at the Council of State Governments.

“I believe our ‘Helping Iowans and Veterans with Disabilities Vote’ initiative is a model that every state can follow,” Pate said. “Those that defended our country and our freedoms deserve every opportunity to make their voices heard by voting, so we should do everything possible to make sure that happens. I hope to see widespread implementation across the country of our efforts to help active duty military and veterans vote.”

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett moderated the session on social media and kicked the session off with talking about what efforts his state is making to reach potential voters including creating a video, using social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and purchasing Google Ads.

Mike Hogan, product manager for Facebook, talked about the social networking sites attempts to focus on engagement.

“Facebook last year rewrote our mission to be more about inclusive communities,” Hogan said. “One community we are trying to build is civic communities. We see that when people can connect with their government and have a voice in the way they are run, these are happy, thriving communities.”

Hogan said his team made big investments begging in 2016 to make sure that people get registered to vote and in turn get out there and cast a ballot. Hogan noted that Facebook has seen a pretty significant increase in the number of people registered to vote because their friends are asking them to vote, not because Facebook is.

Bridget Coyne from Twitter’s policy team was also on hand to talk about the efforts that social media platform is taking to minimize disinformation.

“Combating misinformation is the number one priority, and part of that is investing in machine learning” Coyne said. “We don’t look at individual people, we look at the signals, at the patterns of behavior and we look at somebody tweeting too many times. Maybe they’re not human.”

Coyne said by asking people to verify their accounts with real phone numbers, they are able to remove bot Twitter accounts faster than ever before.

“Sharing best practices with other states is part NASS’ mission. The discussions were robust, productive and informative,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “The New Voter Forum will hopefully lead to increased outreach, partnerships and collaboration across the country.”

(The Democracy Fund provided support for the New Voter Forum.)