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Thursday, April 26, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.

Social media may be key factor to passage of Amendment One

By Elizabeth Wiley
Special to The Seattle Times

RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly all the data suggest Amendment One should pass. If it doesn't, social media may make the difference.

Voting on the amendment began April 19 and runs through May 8. Data points that suggest it should pass easily:

• North Carolina is a relatively moderate part of the South, but it's still in the most conservative region of America. Of 11 states south of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River, eight have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, including all the ones adjacent to North Carolina.

• Turnout in off-November elections skews older, the voting bloc most opposed to same-sex marriage.

• Amendment One proponents have at least a 6-to-1 fundraising advantage, according to financial reports and information provided by the campaigns.

With these kinds of challenges, the amendment's opponents, known as the Coalition to Protect All North Carolina Families, have two paths to victory: Persuade lots of people or mobilize supporters far beyond expectations. To try to make it happen, the coalition has gone all-in with social media.

Their profiles can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Pinterest, and there's a clear difference in online presence between proponents and opponents of Amendment One.

Ian O'Keefe is a college freshman who has taken off a term of school to work against Amendment One by reaching out to college voters.

"We can't use traditional means of communication to contact them," he said. "We can't phone bank for them. We can't do canvassing a lot of time for them. So we have to reach out to them through their friends."

Proponents are not ignoring social-media engagement. On the pro-Amendment One website, one can find tool kits, media and a how-to guide available to every supporter. This approach, however, has not been a central focus. Instead, proponents are going Old School: They are making a big push through churches.

They have named April 29 "Marriage Sunday," and are asking churches to preach sermons on traditional marriage, show a video and encourage members to participate in a phone bank. Congregants also will be encouraged to vote early, ideally after Sunday service.

Turnout will be the key, said Jen Jones, communications director for Equality North Carolina, one of the coalition groups that oppose Amendment One.

"Early voting will be absolutely pivotal for getting out the people, like we talk about on Twitter, like we talk about on Facebook, who are really moved to do so because they see this as a badge of honor," she said. "If we win, it will be in the next two weeks," not on Election Day.

Elizabeth Wiley is a University of Washington graduate student who has been writing about politics at the UW Election Eye 2012 blog.

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