The polls showed that the “yes” vote had an early lead, but there was concern that citizens were being dishonest in polls. There also was concern that many people in favor of the “yes” vote were ineligible to vote.
With the election drawing nearer concern grew that the vote would not pass. More than 3 million people were eligible to vote, including 60,000 people who had moved abroad in the last 18 months.
Several expats realized that they could make the difference and launched the campaign #hometovote. The campaign encouraged expats to return to Ireland to vote yes. The campaign was made up of accounts like @gettheboattovote, which exploded on Twitter with pictures and stories of people coming home to vote.
One popular story followed Twitter user @kDamo an Irishman living in Edinburgh, who wasn’t planning on returning home to vote. He realized on the day of the election that he was eligible to vote. His Twitter account was followed by hundreds of people as he raced home in time to vote. His most popular tweet of his arrival at the polling station received 795 favorites and 300 retweets.
The vote passed with 62.1% of the population voting for marriage equality. The #hometovote campaign brought success with producing more than 48,00 tweets in 24 hours, according to The Irish Times.
#Hometovote shows the power of social media in politics. In a short span of time expats mobilized and returned home to help make the difference in the vote. The hashtag also raised awareness of the referendum around the world as it began to trend on Twitter. Social media has become a powerful force that can turn the tide of an election simply by following the journey of voters coming home.