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Getting Out the Vote with Text Messaging

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Ladies and gents, meet Generation Text -- young voters who can't live without their cell phones and spend their days text messaging. (This reporter, fyi, is a noted ATA: a texting addict.)

Today Rock the Vote, the non-partisan get-out-the-youth-vote group, and AT&T, the country's leading wireless service provider, unveiled a nationwide mobile campaign in which young voters can get election news and voter registration updates through texts. Anyone can sign up, and the number to call and opt-in will be revealed next month. The announcement was made this morning at Indianola High School, just south of Des Moines, where candidates are gearing up for Iowa's crucial Jan. 3 caucuses. In addition to the mobile campaign, Rock the Vote has launched a high school program called Rock the Caucus that educates high-schoolers across Iowa-- anyone who is 18 by election day can caucus -- on the specific rules of caucusing. Indianola High, with about 1,100 students, is one those schools.

"Everyone here has their cell phones all the time," Laura Epperson, an 18-year-old senior at Indianola who's planning to caucus for Sen. Barack Obama, told The Trail in a phone interview. "So reading text messages about voter registration and things like that could make a difference."

Folks at Rock the Vote and AT&T point to statistics. In 2004, turnout of 18- to 29-year-olds increased by 4.3 million votes compared to 2000. Last year's midterm election, they pointed out, saw a jump of 1.9 million 18- to 29-year-old voters compared to the previous midterm.

"When Rock the Vote started, it was all about MTV and Madonna and freedom of speech," Heather Smith, the group's executive director, told The Trail. "Now there's this whole new generation of voters, and they're more into volunteering and more engaged in politics."

Added Kiliaen D. Van Rensselaer of AT&T: "And they're always texting."

Some political campaigns have caught on to the texting craze, though Democrats have a clear edge over the Republicans. (Only former governor Mitt Romney sends regular text messages.) As The Post reported earlier this year, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former senator John Edwards, all locked in a three-way battle in the Hawkeye State, send texts to their supporters.

Last Friday, the Obama campaign, arguably the most profilic (and innovative) campaign texter, sent this: "A holiday gift from the Obama store: get a 20% discount on all Store.BarackObama.com items through Dec. 31. Use coupon code: TEXT at checkout."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 19, 2007; 8:05 AM ET
 
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