Washington state residents will soon be able to register to vote through Facebook, thanks to a new app announced Tuesday. The app, developed by Microsoft, allows users to file voter registration forms directly from the secretary of state's Facebook page.
Users will have to authorize the app to access their basic personal information (name and date of birth), which will be used to pre-fill each registration form. In order to finalize the process, aspiring voters will have to manually enter their drivers license or state ID numbers. When the app launches early next week, Washington will become the first state to offer voting registration through Facebook.
Shane Hamlin, the state's co-director of elections, hopes Washington's approach will make it even easier for citizens to register. He certainly has reason to be optimistic, considering the results Washington saw in 2008, when it became only the second state to offer online registration. Since then, the state has processed more than 475,000 new registrations or update requests.
"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," Hamlin told the AP. He was careful to point out, however, that the app will only pull the most basic information from a user's profile, and that this information will not be collected by Facebook.
"You are giving your information to us, not Facebook," Hamlin told Ars Technica. "Your name and date of birth are pulled from Facebook profile, then it operates exactly as it does if you’re not in Facebook. Our state database checks to see if you’re already registered. If you are, it will take you to MyVote service, [where] you can update registration information." Hamlin went on to say that the agency will conduct a final "real-time check" to verify an applicant's identity.