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Politics Tidal wave of political text messages hits campaign home stretch

12:50  31 october  2020
12:50  31 october  2020 Source:   abcnews.go.com

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Political campaigns and parties say they’re sending many more texts this year than in past elections as they search for alternatives to social media. The software allows political campaigns to upload lists with names, phone numbers and other personal information.

The pandemic election of 2020 is boom time for political text messaging.

a hand holding a cellphone: Experts say a record number of political text messages are inundating American cell phones during the 2020 election season. © ABC News Experts say a record number of political text messages are inundating American cell phones during the 2020 election season.

Campaigns and independent advocacy groups are inundating voters' cellphones with a record number of texts that analysts say could number in the billions.

"We've definitely seen this year that more people, more campaigns are using it and that is having an impact. I think people are getting a little bit frustrated," said Jessica Alter, co-founder and CEO of Tech for Campaigns, a left-leaning nonprofit.

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Political texts have grown increasingly important as some campaigns pulled back from digital advertising after certain technology platforms such as Twitter and The text messages capture voter attention more effectively than emails, mailers or calls, advocacy groups and campaign organizers say.

The Trump campaign has said it will send more than a billion texts this cycle. MoveOn, a progressive group pushing voter turnout, told ABC News it's already sent 350 million. The Biden campaign and other voter mobilization efforts have contributed hundreds of millions more.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Jessica Alter, co-founder and CEO of Tech for Campaigns, says political text messaging has surged in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. © ABC News Jessica Alter, co-founder and CEO of Tech for Campaigns, says political text messaging has surged in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The messages are coming fast and furious from both sides in the final hours of the campaign, eclipsing door-knocks as the go-to method of voter outreach because of COVID-19.

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"We had a texting party at my house -- six women around the table. We had some wine, some cheese and crackers, and I gave them a little script to get them to encourage their friends and families to get out and vote," Virginia voter Patti Hidalgo Menders told ABC News.

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The get-out-the-vote push is being propelled by special political texting apps that tap publicly available voter registration records to load phone numbers automatically and allow armies of volunteers to send scripted messages with the tap of a thumb.

a group of people looking at a cell phone: Virginia Republican voter Patti Hidalgo Menders has organized texting parties for local women as part of a grassroots effort to turnout the vote. © ABC News Virginia Republican voter Patti Hidalgo Menders has organized texting parties for local women as part of a grassroots effort to turnout the vote.

"You have maybe 100 text messages assigned to you, and you just click 'Send' and it sends off the message, and you send it to the next person, and you click 'Send' until you've sent it to everyone," said Emily Isaac, voter mobilization director for MoveOn, who demonstrated the tool for GMA3 and ABC News Live.

"A lot of people might think it's a robot; it's totally not. It's a human, it's a volunteer," Isaac said. "You could be sitting, you know, watching Netflix just hanging out."

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They also use text messaging for socializing purposes. G. The popularity of text messages led to the development of a special system of words or ‘chat speak’. Freedom begins with naming things. This has to happen in spite of political climates, careers being won or lost, and the fear of being

Ms Crocker says the group is learning how they can combat racism in their own small community, such as campaigning for an official Spanish translator for the county. They will also bring up Black Lives Matter as a discussion topic in the town council and are reading Ibram X Kendi's book "How to be an

Most robocalls and robotexts are illegal without an individual's prior consent. But the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates unsolicited commercial calls, says campaign outreach initiated by a real person is exempt from the Do Not Call List.

a man standing in front of a laptop computer: Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College in California, says her research has found a direct positive impact from text messages on voting participation. © ABC News Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College in California, says her research has found a direct positive impact from text messages on voting participation.

"Texting has been around for a long time and there have been major text messaging get-out-the-vote campaigns for years," said Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College and expert on the effectiveness of political text messaging. "But this year of course there is a pandemic and so a lot of the traditional tools that a campaign would use, especially door knocking, are gone."

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Michelson said her scientific research has found that text messages have a direct positive impact on getting people to vote. "Text messaging, even if you don't answer it, you still look at it. You still read it, right?" she said. "Per vote, it's very powerful. But, you know, if you want big effects, you still have to do those other tactics."

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Most traditional campaign tactics involve real human contact, like door-to-door canvassing -- something Democrats have de-emphasized during this campaign because of public health concerns, while Republicans have been out in force.

a man standing in front of a building talking on a cell phone: Sean Rastatter of Virginia says local Republicans have been successfully mobilizing door-knocking campaigns despite concerns about COVID-19. © ABC News Sean Rastatter of Virginia says local Republicans have been successfully mobilizing door-knocking campaigns despite concerns about COVID-19.

"This weekend we'll have over 100,000 doors knocked, well over 500,000 calls made," said Sean Rastatter, first vice chair of the Fairfax County Republican Committee in Virginia. "People are appreciative that, you know at this time of isolation, that we actually want to hear their voice at the door."

Rastatter said text messaging is still dominating on both sides. "It's cheap and easy," he said.

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Isaac said progressives activists are using texts to encourage "relational messaging."

"We're asking them not only will you vote, but will you help your friends and your family vote? Are there three people who you can support to vote?" she said.

a woman smiling for the camera: Emily Isaac, voter mobilization director for Move On, a progressive advocacy group, says thousands of volunteers are sending text messages to voters encouraging them to support getting three other people to the polls. © ABC News Emily Isaac, voter mobilization director for Move On, a progressive advocacy group, says thousands of volunteers are sending text messages to voters encouraging them to support getting three other people to the polls.

The onslaught of texts is expected to continue as both sides try to drive turnout. Experts say if you've already voted or are otherwise eager to get off the lists, simply text S-T-O-P in reply or use the "block caller" feature on your mobile device.

Or, you could just wait for the relative electronic silence that campaign operatives and political analysts agree is certain to come the day after Election Day.

How to watch election night 2020: the definitive hour-by-hour guide .
Election Day is nearly here, and in a matter of hours we’ll find out whether this is the end of the campaign — or just the beginning of a protracted fight over who won. At 7 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time, which applies to all times mentioned here), we’ll start to see returns from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. Trump won all four of these states in 2016 and needs to win them again in 2020. The good news for viewers is that we should see relatively quick results in these key states, all of which are allowed to start processing (i.e., opening envelopes, validating signatures or even counting) their early votes and mail ballots before Election Day.

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