Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out a new feature for its users: town hall. Located under the “Explore” section of the sidebar – you might have to click “See More” – the town hall feature allows you to input your address and see who all of your political representatives are, from state to federal.
Living in downtown Lansing, here's a few of what mine looks like:
As a firm that specializes in public relations and public affairs, the town hall feature was something interesting to all of us at Resch. We’re all pretty politically aware – or in my case have become much more politically aware – and understand the importance of being an informed voter.
When going to the polls though, many constituents only know of the presidential candidates and not much else about all of the other names and positions on the ballot. Sure, people know about senators and representatives but do they know their positions on the issues? Or just that they are a Democrat or Republican? The town hall feature allows users to learn more about who their current political representatives are and hopefully, get them thinking about more local offices as well.
Because even though the presidential election is the most glamourous and publicized, a lot of the changes that most directly affect people happen at the local and state levels.
The town hall feature is particularly important for young people, a demographic that, historically has been disengaged from politics. Much of the time, it was simply because they were not only uninformed but didn’t know who or what to research. However, in our past election cycle, many young people became more involved through the campaign of Bernie Sanders.
Pew Research Center shows that 88 percent of our youngest voters, ages 18-29, are currently on Facebook. The town hall feature is a great way for these young people to get informed and see who their current federal and state representatives and senators are. By getting more young people engaged politically, we are creating more informed citizens with opinions based on their own research, not just on the latest click bait article at the top of their news feed.
The town hall feature also alerts users of upcoming elections in their area, allowing them to plan work, school and childcare around election participation that day. About 60 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election, but Facebook’s alert system provides a way for even more people to be in the know well in advance.
Facebook and other social media sites undoubtedly have influence in politics – for many it’s where they consume most of their news. As voters, it’s incredibly important to be informed not only about federal elections but state and local ones as well. This new feature from Facebook is a great way to get and keep people informed about who is representing them in the political sphere.