Texting to The Voter File: What You Should Know

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Until recently, contacting voters or supporters on their mobile phones was costly and inefficient. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits using automatic dialing systems to contact cell phones, so campaigns would have to dial these numbers manually.

Now we can reach people on their cell phones through a different means: text message.

Campaigns can now text people on mobile numbers pulled from voter files, opening up communication to a vast swath of untapped voters. Texting voters directly off the voter file is a convenient, low-cost, and effective form of communication.

We’re going to walk you through some frequently asked questions about using peer-to-peer texting to contact voters.

Is texting directly off the voter file legal?

If done right, yes. With peer-to-peer texting, texts are sent manually by our call center operators, rather than through an automated system. This manual intervention ensures that the texting campaign is legal.

How many cell phone records are on the national voter file?

About 55% of the voter file has a cell phone number – 26% of the file is cell phone only.

Are the texts sent from a shortcode? 

No, texts are sent from full phone numbers and show up on recipients’ phones just like any other text. We can text from any local area code as well.

How many texts can an operator send per hour? 

Tests have shown that just one operator can contact anywhere from 200 to 800 voters per hour. Contacting these same cell phone numbers using live calling, the limit is closer to 30 voters per hour.

Do these texts require a disclaimer? 

Since it is peer-to-peer texting, and not auto- or mass-texting, no disclaimer is needed.

Don’t people hate receiving unsolicited texts?

Our experience shows that only 1.6% of recipients respond negatively to political texts.

What is the average “take me off your list” rate? 

Only about 3% of voters contacted will request to be removed.

Doesn’t it cost recipients money to receive a text?

Only about 10% of cell phone plans are pay-per-text; most people have unlimited texting plans.

How can a voter get off the list?

They would just have to respond to the text to express that they no longer want to be contacted. They’re then flagged for removal from the list. 

What percent of voters view the text? 

Studies have shown that text messages have a greater than 95% open rate.

What percent of voters respond? 

We see a response rate of 6-8% when contacting voters, and even higher when contacting membership or known supporters.

If the voter does respond, how long is the average conversation? 

It depends on the type of texting program you would like to run, but the average conversation is 2-4 messages.

What percent of adults own a cell phone? 

Statistics gathered by Pew Research show that adult cell phone penetration has reached 90% in the US. Of those, around 80% use texting.

What percent of adults only have cell numbers? 

According to the National Health Interview Survey, about 10 years ago only 6% of adults had a mobile phone and no landline. In 2014, that figure had risen to 44% of adults, a trend that continues today.

What options are there for monitoring text conversations? 

A full list of replies is available the day after a text program concludes along with the rest of the program reports.

How can texting be linked up to multimedia and online engagement?

You can also send and receive pictures via text. For example, this has been used to ask supporters to take selfies when they go to the polls. Another way to drive online engagement is to send texts that include a link to a video or other content. If using a URL shortener such as bit.ly, you can keep track of click-throughs and gather further analytics.

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