Changing the Nature of the Electorate: Manual Texting Shows Promise for Voter Registration
During the 2016 cycle, Stones’ Phones began manually texting the voter file to deliver our clients’ messages straight to any voter’s pocket – without the need for an opt-in. Manual texting is great for a number of applications, including GOTV, crowd-building, and disseminating digital ads.
Registering Voters in 160 Characters or Less
We wanted to see if we could use this new technique to register voters. More and more states are implementing online tools to register to vote, and the convenience of texting allows us to reach thousands of unregistered Americans.
After identifying a sample of 10,000 mobile numbers of unregistered, voting-age citizens living in San Jose, CA, we sent a single text that read: “Hey, it’s Sam with CA Turnout. I’ve always said if you don’t vote you can’t complain. Will you register to vote? It’s easy, just tap here.” This message was followed by a shortened link pointing to the California Secretary of State’s online registration tool.
Less than $5 per New Voter
On average, about 6% of those contacted registered to vote before Election Day. That’s less than $5 per new voter. We won’t know the net effect on overall voter registration without looking at a control group – watch this space for future testing.
According to the Voter Participation Center’s 2016 annual report, their mail-based voter registration programs registered 938,142 new voters at an average cost of $14 per new voter. They also made major breakthroughs by mailing to household addresses that have no recorded registrant, rather than just targeting individuals that appear on consumer databases.
These “unlisted” Americans are prime registration targets, and manual texting is great way to reach them. This contact method also shows promise for reaching other high-priority Democratic registration targets, including young people and people of color. And with in-language texting, we could also reach people in their preferred language.
Already Registering Voters Online? Try SMS Chase
If you're already running an online voter registration program through targeted social media ads and email blasts, you should consider adding an SMS chase component. Some folks need a little extra push to finish filling out their registration, and a text may be the trigger they need.
The Clinton campaign's online registration program in Pennsylvania tested an SMS chase program and found that it was 13 times more effective than email. In the end, 1% of all registrations came from the SMS chase program.
We’re excited to continue working with our partners to develop this registration technique and turn the tide in 2018. Want to know more or get involved? Drop us a line!