New Jersey Journalist Uses Only Facebook To Win Local Election

By Jennifer Moire 

Power to the people. At least the people on Facebook. That’s the sentiment shared by Jim Cook, online editor at the South Jersey Times, who launched a last-minute bid to join the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Board of Education election in Pilesgrove Township, N.J., with no money, only 24 hours, and relying solely on Facebook posts shared with his friends.

We’ve seen evidence of the role that Facebook played in motivating friends to vote in the 2010 midterm elections thanks to a study by the University of California San Diego. This story is just more evidence that the social network can play a role in even the most local of elections.

Here’s a look at how Cook managed to win the race using only Facebook.

  • Late on the evening of Monday, Nov. 5, after noshing on his brother’s birthday cake, a quick review of a sample ballot revealed that voters would need to write in the names of two candidates for the school board.
  • Cook pulled out his iPhone and typed out this message as a Facebook status update: “Hey everyone! I noticed you need to vote for 2 for W-P school board. But there’s only one candidate. Write-in ‘Jim Cook Jr.’ !!!”
  • Cook said he thought his update would get lost in the flurry of posts about the presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It wasn’t. Immediately, 20 friends said they would vote for him.
  • In total, eight posts appeared on Facebook starting Monday at  10:30 p.m. and continuing for 24 hours.

On election night, the paper realized that 261 voters wrote in names in the school board race. After a delay caused by Hurricane Sandy in counting the votes, Cook was named the winner this week.

Digital strategists from both parties said that Facebook and other social platforms will play more of a key role in engaging with and motivating supporters, especially in local elections, starting in 2014 and beyond. And we know from Pew Research that Facebook friends are immensely influential in how Facebook users vote. This New Jersey story portends a trend that will continue.

Readers: Do you think Facebook plays a role in influencing how voters behave?