Snapchat announces tools to increase youth voter engagement

On the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Snapchat announced Thursday it would be releasing new tools to help its users register to vote, learn about voting and make a plan to vote.

The features will launch on the app in early September and include an in-app voter registration tool, user-specific sample ballots, a voter guide and a voter checklist.

According to Snapchat, between 300,000-500,000 Snapchatters turn 18 each month, and navigating the voting process can be daunting for first time voters.

Given that more than 15 million young people have turned 18 since the last presidential election, the company believes it has a responsibility to provide its user base with information regarding voting and civic engagement.

“Even in non-pandemic times, registering to vote is not actually that easy for young people — it can be an intimidating process, especially for first-time voters,” Rachel Racusen, director of communications at Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, told CNN.

For the first time, Snapchatters will be able to register to vote directly in the app, via a partnership with TurboVote, an online tool powered by Democracy Works that helps register voters and provides voting information. Snapchatters who are 18 years old and older will be encouraged to register to vote using the tool.

Working with BallotReady, an organization that collects nonpartisan information about candidates and ballot initiatives, Snapchat will provide users with an example of what their ballot will look like, featuring down ballot races and ballot questions.

Through the company’s partnership with BallotReady, Snapchatters will also be able to learn about their voting options amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including voting-by-mail and voting early in-person. The app will encourage its users and their friends to make a plan to vote.

Snapchat is also creating a voter guide which users will find when they search terms in the app such as “vote by mail,” “ballot education,” “voter registration,” “accessibility” and “voter suppression.” The guide will include resources to help users learn about how and where to vote from the NAACP, ACLU, BallotReady, When We All Vote, I am a Voter, Vote Early Day, and others.

“We want to do everything we can to help make voting more accessible for all groups who have been historically disenfranchised,” Racusen said. “As the platform with the greatest reach among 18-29 year olds in the US, we believe we have a responsibility to tackle these challenges by investing in products and partnerships designed to empower first-time and young voters, a traditionally disenfranchised population when it comes to voting.”

Snapchat has a track record of registering new voters. According to Snapchat, the app, through its partnership with Democracy Works, helped more than 450,000 Snapchatters register to vote using TurboVote in 2018. Democracy Works tracked that 57% of them turned out.

Ahead of the 2018 midterms, Snapchat introduced a voter activity card that appeared on Snapchatters profiles with information and reminders about what they needed to do before and on election day.

The company plans to provide its users with a voter checklist again ahead of Election Day this year.