Social network for voter education

Deborah Bowen tweeted the other day about the use of social media for voter education. Here’s an idea. Thing is, people get voting recommendations through their social networks. I don’t know about you, but when I’m looking at initiatives, downballot races, and other nonobvious choices, I look to maven friends who have some knowledge and perspective. The standard voters guides are somewhat useful, but they lack the perspective of a knowledgeable friend.

So, the opportunity is to have a social network application that enables mavens to fill out sample ballots (in full or in part). For each choice, the maven can add a comment and links to provide explanation and reference about their choice. Anyone can be a maven by filling out part of a ballot and explaining their choice.
Voters can choose to follow one or more “mavens”. Mavens who are connected and well-respected will gain more followers. The maven’s activities can be visible in an existing social network (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), so people can discover mavens in their social network. A maven can choose to have their profile and ballot be “public” (anyone can follow them), “private” – they need to approve new followers before followers can see their choices, or “networked” – your friends friends can see your ballot.

The system can display top “public” mavens, so followers can discover new sources of recommendations. Voters should be able to see the public and networked mavens followed by their friends.

This system would build on the existing social networks people use to make voter decisions, and would expose people to a wider range of information and opinion through the social network. Experts and influential people would rise to visibility. The ability to share comments and links will drive education around the ballot. And the roots of the system in the social network ought to encourage civil behavior, which could be severely problematic in a public opinion-oriented system.

What do you think?

One thought on “Social network for voter education”

  1. Overall, it sounds like a good idea. Of course an issue is that not everyone is online, especially lower-income communities and so there is a great chance that they will be underrepresented. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of the mainstream press (and newspaper editorial boards) having such a overwhelming influence on public opinion and voting so this is definitely worth discussing. Looking forward to it.

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