DemLabs blog

Reclaim Our Vote (ROV), a grassroots group in Virginia is innovating to get-out-the-vote (GOTV) in Virginia's primary election. Its volunteers will text 32,000 voters in three Virginia Congressional districts with details on where and how to vote in five days for less than 5 cents per voter.

Volunteers text reminders to Virginia low propensity voters to vote along with individualized details such as:
- What form of Voter ID is acceptable in Virginia?
- Where is the polling location in their precinct?
- Where is curbside voting offered?
- When are the polling locations open?

Project details
ROV has limited funds and staff and picked Text Per Cent. This DemLabs designed system lets ROV volunteers send peer-to-peer texts as SMS (Short Message Service) and images (such as acceptable Voter ID details) through MMS (Multi Media Service).

Text messages cost 1 cent and MMS messages cost 2 cents. A typical interaction with a voter might include an introductory text message, a response text from the voter and the volunteer replying with an image that includes a Voter ID details card. This comes to:
2 x SMS messages = $ 0.02
1 x MMS message with image = $ 0.02
Total per interaction with voter = $ 0.04
Cost to reach 32,000 voters = 32,000 x $0.04 = $1,280
Less than 5 cents per voter to remind them to vote and provide them the details they need.

Four innovations to get the vote out in Virginia.

Where do I vote?

Volunteers text voters by choosing from a set of messages pre-defined for them.
[VOTERNAME], Polls are open 6am to 7pm. You vote at [CALC2]. Virginia is still a Photo ID state; don't forget to bring your Photo ID!

The message above is automatically customized to the voter being texted. [CALC2] checks the voter's precinct to find the polling location address for that precinct. Volunteers quickly provide voters the info they need with just one click.
Jim, Polls are open 6am to 7pm. You vote at 105 Court Square, Montrose, VA 22520. Virginia is still a Photo ID state; don't forget to bring your Photo ID!

What Voter ID is needed?
Volunteers send voters an image of acceptable forms of Voter ID as an MMS message which appears as image on the voter's phone. The images and GIFs to send are loaded into the system and the message looks like:
"Here is a card that explains acceptable forms of Voter ID in Virginia. [ATTACH; Virginia Voter ID Card; URL]"

Voter ID information comes from VoteRiders, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that helps ensure that all citizens can exercise their right to vote. It helps citizens secure their voter ID as well as support organizations, local volunteers, and communities to sustain voter ID education and assistance efforts. Read more about their programs and services.

"Registered Virginia voters must show photo ID at the polls to vote. If you are a registered voter but didn't bring your ID to the polling place, you may cast a provisional ballot. If you vote a provisional ballot due to lack of ID, the ballot will be marked ID-ONLY. In order for your ballot to be counted, you must provide a copy of one of the accepted forms of ID by noon on the third day following the election to your local election board. ID may also be sent via fax, email, in-person submission, USPS, or commercial delivery service. NOTE: The ID must be received by that date, postmark isn't sufficient. (Effective through 6/30/20)

VoteRiders provides information and free, expert assistance to help you with voter ID. It helps voters renew their expired IDs, obtain the documents needed to secure your ID, and cover the cost of getting to and from ID-issuing offices. Call or text VoteRiders’ Voter ID Helpline: 844-338-8743."

Curbside voting?

"If you are 65 or older, or have a physical disability, you may vote on Election Day without leaving your vehicle.  This is called curbside voting. If you would like to use curbside voting, remember to bring a helper with you who can enter the polling place to ask an election officer for curbside assistance." - Virginia Department of Elections. ROV volunteers send voters an interactive map of locations that offer curbside voting. This map was developed by DemLabs using ArcGIS and is texted as a link by volunteers.

Take away
Every vote matters. Use affordable innovation to make sure so no voter is left behind. Learn more here.

Democracy Labs

DemLabs is a project of The Advocacy Fund. It provides technology and storytelling innovation to progressive campaigns and groups.

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.