Don't Forget to Vote: Data Shows Voting Reminders Work | NBC Bay Area
Decision 2016

Decision 2016

Full coverage of the race for the White House

Don't Forget to Vote: Data Shows Voting Reminders Work

"When you make a plan, you're a lot more likely to vote," a Rock the Vote official says

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    WEST COLUMBIA, SC - FEBRUARY 20: Tim Nicholson casts a vote in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary at American Legion Post 79 on February 20, 2016 in West Columbia, South Carolina. Today's vote is traditionally known as the "First in the South" primary. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

    American University sophomore Bex Warner wanted to vote but almost missed the chance. The 19-year-old college student in Washington, D.C., was registered back home in Illinois but nearly forgot to request an absentee ballot in time.

    The voting reminder tool VotePlz and Facebook posts from friends prevented the student from standing out this crucial election.

    "I probably wouldn't have voted if I hadn't seen reminders," Warner said.

    More organizations, companies and candidates than ever seem to be sending voting reminder text messages, and data suggests they increase voter turnout.

    Text message voting reminders increased turnout by 3 percent, D.C. political consultant Dr. Aaron Strauss found in a nationwide study of 2006 election results. He specializes in experiments that measure the impact of voter outreach techniques. 

    "The idea is that this can take the probability of voting from 50 percent to 53 percent," Strauss said.

    With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump locked in a tight race, a 3 percent boost in voter turnout would be huge. In the 2012 national election, under 54 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot, according to the Pew Research Center.

    Research conducted on a California election in 2009 also suggested that voter turnout increased by 3 percent after residents received a text message the day before the election reminding them to vote.

    Facebook reminders to register to vote also had an impact, data suggests. The Center for Election Innovation & Research found that online voter registration activity increased by as much as sixteen-fold as Facebook reminded users that deadlines were approaching.

    People who receive repeated reminders to vote and think through when they will do so boost their chances of following through, Rock the Vote civic technology director Jen Tolentino said.

    "When you make a plan, you're a lot more likely to vote," she said.

    Voting reminder text messages help eliminate "process issues" that occur when people want to vote but don't know how or where, Brandon Naylor said. He's a spokesman for Democracy Works, a nonprofit that sends TurboVote reminders.

    "Those are problems we can eliminate through technology," he said.

    Here are four voting reminder systems you can sign up for:

    Rock the Vote: The nonpartisan nonprofit sends voting reminder text messages and emails to more than 5 million users. Rock the Vote is helping users make specific plans for when and where they will vote. Users can use the Rock the Vote systems to email themselves their plans.

    To signs up, visit RocktheVote.com.

    TurboVote: TurboVote reminders sent by text message and email are telling users when and where they can vote, when early voting begins and ends, and more. The reminders being sent to more than 556,000 users by text message and more than 601,000 by email are designed to take the guesswork out of voting, Naylor said.

    To sign up, visit TurboVote.org.

    VotePlz: This service tells users when and where they can vote on Election Day, how they can vote early and what rights they have at polling locations. VotePlz also helps users think through how they will get to the polls, showing how long each mode of transportation will take.

    To sign up, visit VotePlz.org.

    Purple: The text message service Purple sends users voting reminders and interactive election updates. The messages are designed to "feel conversational and fun, while also remaining accurate and non-partisan," the Nieman Journalism Lab reported earlier this year.

    To sign up, visit getpurple.io.