How BLUE FUTURE Uses Textbots to Mobilize Young Voters in Georgia

6 mins read

Young voters are a key Georgia voting group with many voting for the first time! They prefer texting over calling. This demands frugal innovation so organizing groups with little time, money and staff can mobilize young voters quickly.

Blue Future is a national organizing program focused on organizing young people. They are using an innovative approach involving textbots, relational organizing and volunteers to help young voters in Georgia.

Background

“The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University shows that youth voter turnout (ages 18 to 29) surged by around 8 percent this year compared to 2016. Young voter turnout surged in response to key issues like the pandemic, racism, and climate change. Young Black voters supported Biden by a particularly wide margin in Georgia (90 percent) and nationwide (86 percent).” – VOX

Blue Future advocates for policies to expand the voting population so the U.S. is a more representative democracy to serve the needs of all people, not just the wealthy, white and privileged. It proposes reforms such as pre-registration for 16 & 17 year-olds to universal voter registration upon the age of 18 and fines or penalties for those who fail to turn out to vote.

Blue Future is run out of the Youth Progressive Action Catalyst, a youth-led political action committee (PAC) focused on organizing young people around progressive electoral campaigns. It makes direct investments in student leaders in key elections who create and mobilize a base of student volunteers to expand a campaign’s field efforts through canvassing, phone banking and more.

Blue Force uses textbots to mobilize young voters in Georgia

How the Blue Future system works

– Young Georgia voters are encouraged to text the helpline at 678-919-3112
– The textbot greets voters with basic voting information and asks three questions created by Blue Future.
– The textbot saves answers provided by the young voters along with contact details into a database.
– Blue Future has prepared a list of possible answers to the most commonly asked questions.
– Volunteers use the free VoteForce app to text responses to the inquiries using the pre-defined responses.
– Texts are sent from the volunteers’ phones and can be personalized as well.

TextBots
textbot is a program that receives incoming text messages and responds in a predefined manner. They can be used to provide information, ask questions and save the answers. Google DialogFlow is a great platform to develop chatbots. The Blue Future chatbot was developed by DemLabs and can be re-used for different campaigns by changing the questions that the textbot asks voters. Textbots enable small groups to easily handle a large number of inquires and quickly provide voters with the information they need for a few cents per caller. Textbots are also used to build voter contact lists and conduct surveys.

Textbot programmed with questions to ask.

Setting up the textbot greeting and questions to ask

How young voters interact with the textbot
Voters text “VOTE” to 678-919-3112. They are greeted by the chatbot which provides them basic information such as:
Thanks for reaching out to the Georgia Youth Voter Helpline!

🍑

Here are some helpful links:
– Voter Registration & absentee ballot status questions: https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do. – Request your absentee ballot: https://ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov/voter/voterSearch.
– Info on IDs acceptable to vote: https://www.voteriders.org/states/georgia
– Contact your local county registrar for more complicated voting questions: https://elections.sos.ga.gov/Elections/countyregistrars.do

They are then asked for their name and Zip Code and what kind of help they need. (The voter’s phone number is automatically saved).
REPLY ‘A’ for Absentee Ballot help.
REPLY ‘B’ to check your voter registration.
REPLY ‘C’ for early voting help.
REPLY ‘D’ for polling location or accessibility help.
REPLY ‘E’ for anything else!

Young voters text to the helpline to get answers to their questions.

How voters interact with the textbot

Textbot collects information and saves responses in a database automatically.
Textbot saves voters’ questions and contact details

Volunteers respond with VoteForce
Blue Future volunteers respond to the incoming queries using the VoteForce app which can be freely downloaded from the Apple iStore and Google Play store. Blue Future creates the list of answers that volunteers should use to respond to voters’ questions. These answers appear in the VoteForce app so all a volunteer has to do is pick the right answer, personalize it and hit SEND! The cost of the texts is covered by the volunteers’ phone plans which helps lower costs.

Volunteers use VoteForce to respond to voters' questions.

Volunteers respond to voters with VoteForce app

TakeAway: Help young voters register and mobilize them to vote. Blue Future shows how it can be done cost-effectively. Support Blue Future.

Deepak
DemLabs

Image credit: Pixabay
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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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