Secretary of State uses Facebook to target inactive voters

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is leaning on technology to reach the 447,000 Oregonians with inactive voter registration.

Richardson’s office gave the state’s list of inactive voters to Facebook, which cross-referenced the names with its social media profiles. On Tuesday, a video from Richardson started popping up in the feed of personal Facebook profiles of inactive voters.

In the video, Richardson flagged the voter’s inactive status and explained no ballot would be sent for the November election a renewed registration. A link below the video takes them an online registration page.

“Oregon needs your voice to be heard,” Richardson said in the video.

The campaign will continue until Oct. 16, when voter registration ends. After that, staff will analyze how many people renewed their voter registration. Chief of Staff Debra Royal said the office hasn’t received any emails from Facebook users targeted by the initiative.

The result is the antithesis of the Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election: It’s empowering American voters, not silencing them.

It’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking Richardson seeks from his staff during daily brainstorming sessions, Royal said.

“We do it every morning. It’s a ritual,” Royal said.

When the idea was pitched about six weeks ago, everyone in the room was immediately receptive, Royal said. As far as the office is aware, Oregon is the only state using Facebook to encourage voter participation in this way. The innovative thinking has ushered in welcome praise.

“We are just really excited that it’s been so well received,” Royal said. “We work really hard, we work really long hours. A lot of the time it’s thankless work … So it’s nice to get accolades in the media. It’s nice to be recognized for our hard work.”

And it’s not just the media attention. Royal said other secretaries of state have reached out to give praise and find out how they could implement the program in their states.

It’s not the first time the office has worked to increase participation under Richardson. Last year, Richardson increased from five years to 10 years how long a voter can miss elections and still be carried as active. That kept 60,000 people on the voting rolls.

Have a tip? Reporter Aubrey Wieber can be reached at [email protected] or 503-375-1251.