MySpace gets political

In Children and Youth, Election 2006, Netroots, Technology on September 29, 2006 at 10:31 am

Sarah Phillips, of the Guardian’s NewsBlog, posted about a new profile featured on MySpace which encourages voter registration and voting for the upcoming November elections. She says:

It may not be a website with a reputation for having a social conscience, but MySpace has launched a new service for its ever-expanding troupe of savvy teenage networkers: political empowerment.

The US arm of the self-promotion site has teamed up with the non-partisan youth voting campaigners Declare Yourself to encourage members to make use of their vote in the state elections this autumn.

Designed as a standard MySpace profile, the page combines downloadable voter registration forms and voter information with public service announcement videos directed by David LaChapelle, warning of the dangers of “silencing yourself”. After registering, users can pin a virtual badge to their profile saying “I Registered to Vote on MySpace”.

This sort of gives me a flashback to the 2004 election, where it became cool to register to vote. Companies like Sean John printed up T-shirts saying things like “Vote or Die.” While I do think its important to encourage voter registration, I feel that many of these “campaigns” simplify it too much and don’t actually produce the results that would lead to big change. Simply being registered to vote isn’t enough. All that leads to is a bunch of people saying things like “I registered to vote on MySpace” but not knowing anything about the issues. Plus, on top of it, companies just use it as an excuse to make money off of a part of American society that they previously had left un-branded.

Edit:  Some people seem to be reading this slighlty wrong, so I just wanted to clarify a couple of things.  I am not saying that programs like this are bad or that MySpace should remove it.  People should definitely have easy access to voter registration.  I was just pointing out that there are some negaive sides to it, and that I would like to see even more from the programs in places like this.  For example, why not provide links to voter guides, so that people who registered can find out when, where, and how to vote once registered.  Or how about creating profiles of each candidate, listing all of their stances on issues and brief histories of their careers.  I would rather see direct resources like this on line, rather than the possibility of receiving some junk mail as Keeley suggest in the comment below.  And of course everyone should be able to vote, regardless of their knowledge of the issues or not, but itd be nice to make access to information about issues go hand in hand with access to registration.
Another one of my points was that registraton isn’t enough in the sense that rgistration alone doesn’t lead to voting.  In the 2004 election, over 16 million registered voters didn’t vote due to a wide variety of issues including transportation, conflicting schedules, having incorrect information or no information about times and locations, or not feeling that their vote mattered.  This was in an election where there were a massive amount of people being registered, and large numbers of programs like this started.  Not to mention that more people tend to vote in presidential elections than in other smaller elections.  Finally, while more people both registered and voted in the 2004 election than had happened in quite a while, we still ended up with the results we did.  Obviously registration drives and voter turnout methods are working better on one side of the spectrum than the other (Jerry Falwell?).  So maybe its not that these non-partisan programs are so bad, but that the progressive groups need to do a better job of getting registered voters out to the polls.

  1. I’m actually happy about the decision for MySpace to offer this. I added it to my profile yesterday afternoon.

    I think the more people registered, the better. It’s the first step for many people to getting pulled into the political arena — once you put your info down on the registration form, every county, state and federal party, and each of their candidates, has your contact info and can reach out to you. It can lead to some getting pissed about junk mail, but others to get more actively involved.

    I think it’s important for new people/registrants to get this information, regardless of whether they register at a high school football game or through MySpace.

    As far as knowing or not knowing the issues, I think it doesn’t matter. Everyone has the right to vote, regardless of issue awareness, IQ, race, gender, age, or any other indiscriminate factor… let em register and let em decide to vote or not vote.

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