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California Democrats use Facebook to find non-voters

With users' permission, the app checks their friends' party registrations and voting histories and then lists Democrats who don't vote regularly, encouraging the users to prod their pals to vote in the Nov. 2 election.

October 26, 2010|By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento — The California Democratic Party unveiled a new tool in its get-out-the-vote kit Monday: a first-of-its-kind Facebook application that sifts through a user's friends list, matches it with the friends' party registrations and voting histories, and pops out a list of people who vote Democratic but don't regularly vote.

It then encourages users to tell their non-voting friends to cast a ballot Nov. 2.

"We're asking their friends to help us nudge those voters," said Tenoch Flores, a spokesman for the party.

Flores said the development of the Facebook application was made possible by funding from Chris Kelly, Facebook's former chief privacy officer, who lost last June's Democratic primary for state attorney general.

Individual users give the Democratic Party permission to scrub their friends list, but the friends do not have to consent. Flores dismissed any fears about the mining of voter data without the subjects' permission.

"In the same way that we target voters with direct mail, this is part of the same strategy for us," he said. "It's no creepier than getting a piece of mail saying vote for candidate X or candidate Y."

With 15.4 million voting-age Facebook members in California, the party says, the tool could be crucial to mobilizing hard-to-reach younger voters.

"The California Democratic Party has identified hundreds of thousands of key voters who don't necessarily vote in every election, people that could make the difference between winning and losing this November," the Friend Out the Vote website says. "See which of your Facebook Friends are in that critical voter group."

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

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