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Steeped in Conservative Controversy, Facebook Pushes California Voter Registration

Nearly 200,000 online voter registration applications were completed on California’s Secretary of State website in two days during Facebook’s blast promoting registration in the state.

Facebook’s California promotion comes as the company has faced criticism over allegations that they suppress conservative news. The voter registration drive ran Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 17 directed at users who would reach age 18 by Election Day.

“Monday’s registration activity was the second highest in the nearly four-year history of California’s online voter registration site,” said Secretary of State Padilla. “We appreciate Facebook’s commitment to increasing voter registration in our state. The power of social media to connect Californians to online voter registration was on full display.”

Facebook has been steeped in controversy following claims from former Facebook employees that the site regularly suppresses conservative news in their “trending” news section, according to Gizmodo. A “former journalist who worked on the project” said that stories on conservative gathering CPAC, politicians Mitt Romney and Rand Paul, as well as other conservative topics, are not featured.

A number of former Facebook “news curators” told Gizmodo that they were told to “inject” stories that weren’t already popular enough, as though they were. Reporter Michael Nunez records Facebook users at a powerful 167 million in the United States alone.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg maintains there is no evidence to support the accusations. He did schedule a meeting on Facebook’s home turf, at their headquarters in Menlo Park, California, with a host of so-designated conservatives, not all of whom accepted the invitation due to ascribed questionable motives behind it. Even mainstream news organization CNBC published a piece suggesting that Zuckerberg merely wanted to avoid the regulatory burden of being designated a news site.

Matt Schlapp, Chairman of CPAC organizer the American Conservative Union, refused to attend the meeting, calling it a PR stunt to host Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. “I think they need conservatives to sit around the table so that after the meeting, they can say we have met with all these conservatives and we had this great conversation going. And everything — everything is going to be smoothed over with conservatives.” Schlapp noted that no apology was issued in the course of the controversy or this week’s meeting.

Katie Harbath, Director of Government and Politics at Facebook, said of the California voter registration promotion, “By providing a platform for civic engagement and reminding people in California to vote, Facebook makes it easier for people to participate and have a real impact on the political process. When more people are engaged, public officials hear a wider range of views, leading to an open and healthy debate.”

Those who registered during the Monday and Tuesday Facebook promotion were approximately one third aged 17-25. Another almost 30 percent were 26-35 according to the California SOS.

The massive nearly 200,000 completed registration applications in two days illustrates the power of Facebook when compared to the 850,000 in the first three months of 2016, according to statistics from Political Data, Inc. cited by Capitol Weekly.

Actual voter turnout has skyrocketed for Republican voters during the 2016 primary election process. Early voting in Los Angeles, regardless of party, boomed by 350 percent in the first five days of voting over California’s 2012 primary election.

Mail-in ballots started going out to vote-by-mail registrants on May 10. Two-thirds of California’s primary voters are expected to vote by mail and can turn in their ballots any day up until the day of the primary, June 7, provided mailed ballots are received by June 10.

Californians have until May 23 to register or update their registration to vote in the state’s June 7 primary election.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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