The social power of the 'I voted' sticker

Whether you went to the voting booth or sent in an absentee ballot, you probably got an "I voted" sticker. It's a patriotic badge of honor that voters proudly displayed as they left the polls.

It may be small, but it's powerful social symbol, especially during the highly-charged election.

"I like to let everyone know that I'm participating in an important civic duty, which is voting," one voter told us. "It affects all of us and if we don't do it, you don't get the right to complain about what happens."

"I just did it for the kids to let them know that this is something that is important," said another voter.

According to an article by Northeastern University about the social psychology behind the "I voted" sticker, research shows people who publicly commit to doing something are far more likely to do it.

Psychology professor Judith Hall goes on to say the sticker serves several peer-pressure functions - reminding people to vote or making them feel guilty if they don't, which is why you see people get so upset when there is a sticker shortage.

Stickers can vary from state to state and county to county. In areas in Virginia such as Falls Church, Culpeper County and Alexandria, voters received custom sticker designs.

Matthew Stensrud, who chairs the Alexandria Commission of the Arts, says this is the first year they have ever had a custom "I voted" sticker or a "Future Voter" sticker. He says they held a contest for local artists and then let the public vote on the final design.

"We all see that people show pride through their 'I voted' stickers - whether we see it through social media or in person," said Stensrud. "This adds a uniquely Alexandrian touch to it. So people can show pride both in the civic process and also in the great city that we live in. As well as remind ourselves each and every day the impact that the arts makes on our lives."

The power of the "I voted" sticker has reached even further with social media. In many ways, platforms like Facebook and Instagram are becoming the "I voted" sticker of the 21st century - where people can boast about voting and encourage others to vote by flaunting that participation prize.