As Egypt prepares for legislative elections in November, one civic group is ramping up efforts to get citizens to the polls. One tactic is a new website, www.vote4egypt.com, which launched today to bolster an ongoing campaign to convey the importance of voting.
Vote4Egypt.com features promotional GOTV videos, posters and message boards where users can discuss topics such as how to get voter identification cards and where to vote on election day. The website also tells citizens how they can play an active role in the GOTV campaign.
Election monitoring groups estimated that voter turnout last June for balloting for the upper house of the Egyptian parliament at 5 to 10 percent. Backers of the website hope that it will help increase turnout.
It's part of a larger civic participation effort initiated by the nonpartisan Bridge Center for Dialogue and Development, a NDI partner organization. Bridge's "Have a Voice" campaign, initiated last year, focused on getting voters registered, which is permitted in Egypt between November and January.
NDI sought to help Bridge extend its reach by providing technical assistance in developing the website and producing print promotional materials that strengthened Bridge's ongoing campaign, which started with a Facebook page and a video ad carried on satellite television.
"Have a Voice" encourages all Egyptians to vote but is targeted particularly at young voters, who have not participated at high levels in past elections. One reason is that Egyptians born after 1982 are automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday seemingly a convenient and positive mechanism for supporting turnout. But these voters must go to their local police station to get their voter cards, which many are afraid to do.
The campaign seeks to dispel those fears and encourages young voters to take the necessary steps to participate. The effort, founded by a group of Egyptian bloggers, continues to use social media as an outreach tool as the Internet is a relatively free environment in Egypt, and young people have especially taken advantage of that.
After the November elections, the "Have a Voice" campaign will focus again on voter registration in preparation for Egypt's presidential elections, expected in September 2011. Citizens will have from November to January to register.
NDI opened an office in Egypt in 2005 and began providing technical assistance to several Egyptian civil society organizations observing the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections.