Vote early, vote often, vote via Facebook?

The State of Washington will soon allow people to register to vote on Facebook. Will social media elections be next?

Someday we may well go about electing our president by clicking “Like” on their electoral status updates. We aren’t there yet, but the State of Washington just took another step closer to it.

Sometime next week the Washington State Elections Board plans to unveil a Facebook app that allows Washingtonians to register to vote via its Facebook page. It is the first instance of a state government using social media to perform that function, though it’s not the first to allow voters to register online.

Once it’s up and running, the Facebook app will prefill voter’s forms with information they’ve provided to Facebook – which is kind of a backhanded way for Facebook to force people to use their real identities and other information on their profiles.

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Like eight other states, Washington already allows voters to register online. You’ll have to provide basic information like a birthdate and the number from a state issued ID card or drivers license. If you don’t have a valid number, you can’t get too far along in the process.

How easily one can game this system and create a false registration is unclear, in part because of technical difficulties on the site when I tried it. It was simple enough for me to obtain a photo of someone else’s Washington State drivers’ license, though – a simple Google Image search produced the desired result, thanks to some helpful person who posted the pic of his license online. 

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Credit: Flickr

And no, it was not Sasquatch.

When I attempted to use his information to create a new registration, just to see if it worked, I got an error message stating “The DOL [ department of licensing] service not reachable.” Whether that was the system detecting an error in the data I submitted or just a bug on the Web site is an open question. Given the information in this FAQ, and the fact that the MyVote home page asks users to “please use Internet Explorer” for better compatibility, my money’s on the bugs. But it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in Washington State’s technical mojo.

You’d have to be highly motivated to try this. Per the site:

If you knowingly provide false information on this voter registration form or knowingly make a false declaration about your qualifications for voter registration, you will have committed a class C felony that is punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Still, I can see scenarios where paid political operatives would be willing to take the risk. For example, an attacker could use social engineering to trick registered voters out of the information required, then register them under new addresses in different voting districts, to keep them away from the polls. Or they could create a series of fake registrations in order to discredit a candidate, party, or ballot issue. People far smarter than I am could come up with all kinds of hijinks.

With voter fraud being such a political football, you can be sure this notion will raise a few hackles.

My question: Since Washington State seems to have trouble getting its MyVote site to work correctly, how much luck will it have with its Facebook app? I guess we’ll find out next week.

The good news: Facebook voting is not yet upon us. Better news? Mark Zuckerberg won’t be old enough to run for president until the year 2020.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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