Social platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat turned to TurboVote to help drive voter registration prior to the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S., but the National Association of Secretaries of State would prefer that they turn elsewhere in the future.
Nonprofit organization Democracy Works created TurboVote in 2012 with the aim of simplifying the voter-registration process.
However, Jessica Huseman of ProPublica reported that NASS—members of which oversee elections in all 50 U.S. states—claimed that TurboVote failed to properly process some voter registrations and failed to notify people who thought they had completed the process but actually did not.
NASS also pointed out that the TurboVote site crashed on its most important day—National Voter Registration Day, last Sept. 25—and that its name was used in a phone scam where people claiming to be affiliated with it sought potential voters’ personal information, Huseman reported.
The organization sent nearly identical letters to Facebook government and politics outreach associate Eva Guidarini and Twitter public policy manager Kevin Kane, urging them to instead work with chief state election webpages, state online voter registration system webpages and/or vote.gov.
The letters said of TurboVote, “In the 2018 midterm election cycle, a nongovernment, third-party site failed to properly notify users of incomplete voter registration applications initiated through its site. Many of these individuals then went to the polls and quickly found out they were not registered.”
They added that “reported election mis/disinformation” was not properly addressed by the social networks, saying that both Facebook and Twitter allowed content to remain live on their sites because it did not violate their community standards or cause voter suppression.
Facebook and Twitter both shared statements with Huseman indicating their commitment to maintaining their relationships with NASS and working toward avoiding similar issues with a presidential election looming in 2020.
TurboVote acknowledged the issues of people failing to complete the voter-registration process and not realizing it, telling Huseman it is working with states on improvements.
Democracy Works co-founder Kathryn Peters said in a statement shared with Huseman, “Helping people understand whether or not they have successfully registered is a challenge we are committed to solving. In most states, voter registration has multiple steps, and missing a step can lead to an incomplete or rejected registration (for example, some potential voters may not click through to the second page of a state website, others may download a paper form but don’t print it). This is a problem TurboVote was built to solve.”
TurboVote also provided the following example to Huseman: Vote.gov sends potential registrants in Texas to this 26-page PDF file, while TurboVote handles the task through a series of questions.