Culture

The new voting age: how social media influences your right to vote

Story by Kara Wheeler, Reporter

Picture courtesy of Pexels.com

With what had been dubbed the ‘most important’ election of our lifetime quickly approaching, celebrities, influencers, and friends and family alike were pushing for people to go out and vote. Only this time, voting day seemed much harder to forget about. Social media and pop culture are to thank for that. The multi-media platforms have the ability to post ads, stickers, locations, stories, you name it, to promote the exercise of the right to vote. 

What was especially different this election cycle was Hollywood celebrities’ adamance on the importance of voting. Some occurrences seemed almost too insane to be true, but nonetheless, memorable. Back in October, most users of social media can remember when stars had taken to Instagram and Facebook, posting nude photos to get their follower’s attention and telling them to go out and cast their vote.

Stars like Amy Schumer, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad, and Chris Rock were among the celebrities putting themselves out there with captions, “Hey! I’m naked! Great, now that I have your attention: VOTE!”

In addition, social media has made voter registration and, even voting, more accessible. Now, through platforms like Facebook and Instagram, users could simply swipe up or tap on the link posted through the app and register to vote for the 2020 US Presidential Election. 

The accessibility provided by Instagram and Facebook resulted in record high numbers of voters, even when there was still some time out from election day itself. According to USA Today, “more than 80 million have already registered to vote,” which happens to be more than half of the total votes counted in the 2016 election.

Not only did voter registration look different this election cycle, but voting itself did as well. In the midst of a global pandemic, social media’s effect on the accessibility of voting could not have come at a better time. As the election coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters opted out of standing in lines of people, and chose to mail-in their ballots instead. According to Drew Desilver at the Pew Research Center, “26.6 million mail in votes …  out of nearly 53 million total votes” were cast in 2020. A separate poll conducted by NBC claims that over “1 percent of mail-in ballots may be rejected.” Those that are rejected are more likely to be from Black, Hispanic, female, and younger voters, NBC reporter Kit Ramgopal claims.

Although political posts and advertisements seem to be everywhere, sometimes it can have an adverse effect on the social media users. 

“I see political content on Instagram the most for sure,” said Aquinas College junior Adrien Yondo. She says she tries “to not look at anything posted by anyone” because “I don’t like to form my opinions off others’ biased opinions so I do a lot of the research on my own.” Yondo is libero on the women’s volleyball team at Aquinas, and her coach from freshman year, Rick Schroeder, registered her and the team because he thought that “voter registration was important for us.”

Whether its nude photographs to grab attention, advertisements from the social media platform themselves, or the “old fashion way” of registering by mail and voting in person, make sure you vote in whatever capacity that keeps you safe, healthy, and practicing your right to vote!

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