How one email and two text messages changed an election

The results of an experiment we implemented during the 2018 midterm elections were just released, and we're excited to share them. What we learned is that when it comes to digital communication, a little can go a long way.


Last year, we worked with Vote.org and Pantheon Analytics to test whether sending emails and text messages encouraging voters sign up for absentee ballots could increase voter turnout. Some states have a policy known as "no-excuse absentee voting," which means you don't need a special reason (such as being out of town) to request an absentee ballot and vote from home. Most studies of these vote-from-home jurisdictions have indicated that when voters — especially low-propensity voters — request an absentee ballot, they become more likely to vote. We wanted to see if we could push more registered voters in these vote-from-home states to actually cast a ballot.


The controlled experiment was conducted in eight states that allowed no-excuse absentee voting, with a total audience size of 212,000 voters.


The test group audience was given a remarkably light treatment. We only sent one special email and two text messages encouraging the test subjects to request a vote-from-home absentee ballot. Otherwise, they received the same GOTV communications every member of Vote.org’s audience receives.


Here's what happened: Absentee voting increased significantly among medium- and low-propensity voters who received the three messages.


We often encounter organizations that are managing tight budgets, and are weighing whether investments in their digital program will pay off. These results make the case that with the right strategy, any organization can have a meaningful impact and enact lasting change regardless of size or resources. Even one email and two texts can make a difference.


This experiment was relatively small, but we're looking forward to building on its promise. We'll be running further tests in 2020 with the goal of increasing voter turnout and helping organizations have an impact in the most cost-effective way.


If you're interested in reading the full experiment report, it's available at vote.org/research.


As your organization is also preparing for 2020, be sure to secure a time to talk with our team about your digital organizing and communication goals. To reserve a call with us, visit acmstrategies.com/schedule-a-call.

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