09/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cell Phones and Young Voter Registration

The political world is abuzz with the latest bit of tech gossip. Sometime soon, the Obama campaign is going to announce their pick for VP -- by text message. I thought it might be nice to look back and see where the mobile program first got its start in politics.

In 2004, Rock the Vote began to build our mobile program, texting young people to remind them to turn in their voter registration forms, and get out to vote. Our innovative project signed 118,000 young people to receive political information and GOTV messages through their cell phones. Our daily messaging in the final days of the campaign included celebrity voicemails that explained how to find a polling place via the web or through an automatic patch-through to 1800MYVOTE1.

Earlier than most voter registration organizations, Rock the Vote realized that the best way to reach young people was by cell -- the Millennial Generation aren't tied to landlines.

In 2006 the New Voters Project conducted a study to test the effectiveness of mobile messaging. Sure young voters have cell phones--but are they more likely to take action from a text?

The answer is yes.

Young voters who received a text message reminder were 3% points more likely to turn out on Election Day.

A 2008 Rock the Vote study showed similar results for registration (in ppt file) -- young people were 4.2% more likely to turn in their voter registration forms during the presidential primaries if reminded by text message.

Rock the Vote in partnership with AT&T this year is mobilizing the largest mobile program in politics to register young Americans and get them to the polls this November. Text VOTE to RTVOTE if you want to join the largest young voter registration drive in history.