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MySpace Invites Users to Vote Early

Pundits have been pondering just how much influence social networking sites like the ever-popular MySpace might be able to exert on U.S. election politics: declared presidential candidates from both major parties have assembled MySpace pages and are enthusiastically inviting the sites’ online-savvy youth demographic to sign on as their friends, and organizers alternately quake in fear and glee as they ponder the potential person-to-person capabilities of social networking services to spread candidates’ messages (or misinformation) and mobilize young voters to actively participate in the political process—and perhaps even vote.

Now, MySpace looks like it wants to flex a little political muscle of its own, announcing it plans to hold the nation’s first presidential primary on January 1 and 2, 2008. The announcement comes as the site launches its Impact Channel, pulling together candidates’ official MySpace pages and promising to offer “political programming” through the 2008 election. The site also plans to run a series of straw polls leaving up to the November 2008 election.

“Iowa and New Hampshire may be selecting delegates, but the MySpace vote will be the first test of where candidates stand in the election year,” said MySpace president Tom Anderson, in a statement. Of course, MySpace results will be non-bindin, but MySpace plans to tie the effort into voter registration drives and community mobilization efforts.

“MySpace is establishing itself as a powerful player in the political engagement arena by giving power to its users—giving them the tools to register, vote and actively participate in their democracy,” said Cherie Simon, President of Declare Yourself. “When MySpace’s massive reach is fueled by its strong commitment to empower its users, it will drive millions of young people to actively engage in their democracy by registering to vote.”

MySpace doesn’t require any proof of age when users sign up, so presumably MySpace members under the age of 18 will be able to vote in MySpace’s “primary.” Similarly, many MySpace users have multiple accounts, which may prompt some participants to “vote early, and vote often.” Users will be able to vote for their favorite candidate, and track the voting results immediate after casting their online vote.

Candidate may be thrilled with the idea of campaigning on MySpace: after all, traveling to its virtual doorsteps and community sites is a whole lot easier than trekking around the country, shaking hands, and posing for photo-ops with bawling infants.

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