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Georgia groups work to register voters during pandemic as Facebook unveils voter education feature

In a typical election year get out the vote organizations would have an easy time finding voters to register. During a pandemic they're having to get creative.

ATLANTA — The deadline for Georgians to register to vote for the presidential election is October 5. It is a date "get out the vote" organizations have circled on their calendars.

But with political rallies limited due to COVID-19 and going door-to-door being out of the question, organizations are having to look elsewhere to find new voters.

"There is energy and enthusiasm and people want to register to vote and people want to have these conversations," Nse Ufot, CEO of The New Georgia Project said. 

Ufot said record-high unemployment, healthcare, and the continued push for racial equality are some of the top reasons she is hearing from people for registering to vote so they can cast their first ballot this year.

RELATED: Mayor Bottoms issues order addressing Atlanta's racial, ethnic disparities highlighted by COVID-19

Despite the pandemic, Ufot said The New Georgia Project is making progress toward reaching its goal of registering 100,000 new voters across Georgia this year, with their target demographic being young voters and people of color.

"Instead of going to A, B, C lunches at the local neighborhood high school, it meant we did a Fortnite tournament which is the most popular video game in the world," Ufot said. 

Between the online Fortnite tournament in July, plus phone calls, texts, social media efforts, having volunteers at recent protests around the state and COVID-19 response events - such as food handouts, Ufot said The New Georgia Projects' efforts have led to registering 30,000 new voters so far this year. 

Ariel Singleton is an organizer with Georgia Stand-up. She said over the last year they have registered 9,000 new voters. 

"We've had to take to doing online registering, providing QR codes, Bitly links and just keeping a close eye on how we can still get them engaged," she said when asked how they're finding people to register.

Many of the conversations with new voters also include information about voting absentee, if they want to avoid going to the polls during the pandemic. 

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"The importance of having a voter plan as we call it," Singleton said. "Knowing how many days you have to request your absentee ballot, how many days before the election you need to request it. Once you get it, turning it in, what's the deadline for turning it in."

As Georgia organizations are working to find new voters, Facebook unveiled a new feature Thursday aimed at both educating and registering voters nationwide. 

Facebook announced users should begin seeing the Voting Information Center on the social media company's website and in its smartphone app. 

"There is a lot of changing information and a lot of concerns that people may have about making sure they're voting in the way that makes sense for them," Facebook Public Policy manager Lori Moylan said in an interview with 11Alive. 

Moylan said the new feature lets Facebook users register to vote, receive election updates and alerts for their state, receive vote-by-mail instructions if available in their area, and eventually track election results. 

Facebook's goal is to register 4,000,000 voters nationwide ahead of the November election. Moylan said 160,000,000 people in the U.S. are expected to see the Voting Information Center.

"Hopefully a good portion of those 160,000,000, if they're unregistered, will follow those steps and make sure they can go vote in November," she said. 

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