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Oct 24 2023Blog Updates

How to Use Texting to Build a Winning GOTV Program

Running for office can be complex, especially for first-time candidates. As you work on your field plan and strategize for Get-out-the-vote (GOTV), we recommend including texting in your plan. Texting is an ideal tactic for reaching hard-to-find voters given that it’s cost effective and has the broadest reach, and we highly encourage organizations to use texting within their GOTV toolset.


Our texting clients love using the platform for GOTV because of how quick, easy, and affordable it is to use. Our best practices will help you regardless of which tool you choose you use, but we are biased in our love for TextOut!

Get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, is a crucial part of any political campaign. Traditionally GOTV efforts have focused on canvassing, phone calls, and events, and many campaigns are trying out new tactics to contact voters that are harder to reach.

One strategy for GOTV that’s growing in popularity is contacting voters via text, either with SMS or MMS messages. Now that almost all voters in the U.S. have a cell phone, texting is a great way to reach people with key information in a way that’s less obtrusive than door-to-door canvassing or phone calls. 

While many campaigns have tested out texting for GOTV, it’s still a relatively new tactic that not everyone is well-versed in. And not everyone knows the best practices for success … or what to avoid doing when contacting voters via text. 

Our texting experts at TextOut have worked with hundreds of campaigns and know what works best for using texting for GOTV efforts. 

In this blog, we are sharing our learnings with you as we will walk you through the benefits of GOTV campaigns, share a step-by-step process for setting up a texting GOTV campaign, and include our recommended best practices for GOTV texting. 


Related Product

Real texting conversations that win elections

TextOut by Civitech is peer-to-peer texting software that allows organizations to reach voters and supporters about the issues that matter most, like abortion rights, gun violence, education, the economy, and more. Organizations have used TextOut to engage with their community on everything from COVID vaccination clinics to securing rides to the polls on Election Day. With hundreds of millions of texts sent across the US, we know that real conversations create transformative results.

What is a GOTV campaign?

A get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign refers to voter outreach programs that political campaigns and nonprofits run right before an election with the goal of increasing voter turnout. 

GOTV campaigns include many tactics, such as ads, canvassing, direct mail, phone calls, events, and now more recently, texting. The target universe for GOTV programs includes registered voters the campaign or organization has identified as supporters. Depending on the state’s voter registration laws, the universe might also include unregistered voters who can register on Election Day. 

These campaigns occur during the final stretch before voters hit the polls and on Election Day. 


The benefits of using texting for GOTV

GOTV programs are essential in turning out voters. As a stand-alone campaign or with other efforts, GOTV programs are vital to both victory for campaigns and upholding democracy. The benefits include: 

  • Breaking down barriers: Texting is a great way to reach people who might not answer their door, pick up the phone, or read election flyers. People often have their phones on them, and breaking through the noise often means meeting voters where they are at. Plus, SMS messages have a 98% open rate, on average. 

  • Stretching the budget: Texting can be one of the most cost-effective tools when compared to other GOTV tactics. You can often get bundled pricing at a large scale as well. 

  • Rapid voter contact: Texting platforms allow you to send targeted text messages to your voters within minutes or hours, depending on the size of your list. TextOut provides a dashboard that visualizes the overall campaign, includes data tagging to capture key information in the messages, and sets up volunteers to reply to messages right away. Texting is a great way to communicate quickly and adjust messaging last minute if needed. 

  • Scaled outreach: Compared to other GOTV tactics, texting makes it possible to reach your district’s voters on a large scale and much more efficiently than going door-to-door with a team of canvassers or making calls. 

  • A wider volunteer pool: Not everyone likes walking door-to-door to talk to people or spending hours on the phone calling voters. For volunteers who are shy, unable to travel to volunteer, or prefer written communication to verbal, texting is a great opportunity for people to get involved. Adding a texting component to your GOTV plan can help you expand your volunteer base. 

Ready to start texting? We can set you up with TextOut quickly >>

What are the types of GOTV campaigns you can do with texting?

Ideally, you’ll want to plan out your GOTV ahead of the final crunch with a series of outreach. There’s no shortage of ways to contact voters and drive action through texting. While we are providing general advice, make sure to check your registrar and state board of elections for the specific laws and regulations that guide your campaign as it relates to texting and voter contact. 

Standard GOTV


The most basic type of GOTV texting campaign. You contact supporters and voters who fit the profile of your supporters. Give the potential voters information about their polling location, voting hours, and key dates. Candidates and organizations typically run these types of campaigns the weekend before Election Day and up until the polls close. For many folks, Election Day signifies the day to get out and vote. Use this momentum to your advantage! Send reminders on Election Day to turn out voters at the final hour.

Early Voting


The addition of early voting in many states gives voters more opportunities to cast a ballot, and you also have an additional opportunity to reach voters before they cast a ballot. And if someone votes early, that’s one less voter to worry about on Election Day. An early voting campaign should include key information like hours and locations. Make sure you contact voters right before early voting starts (dates vary by state). 

GOTV + Tripling


Recommended response scripts make it easy to ask your identified supporters to also engage their friends and community. Texters can ask contacts to “vote triple” by reminding their friends, family, and housemates to vote too.

Volunteer ask


If you have a list of known supporters, you can send a follow-up text asking if they’d like to volunteer with the campaign. You’ll have more success with asking for a specific event or task, but you could also share your general volunteer sign-up if someone shows interest. Ideally, you’ll want to run a volunteer ask campaign after your first round of texting, but not too close to Election Day or there won’t be time to volunteer.

Multiple candidates


GOTV efforts can highlight more than one candidate or race. Many organizations and state parties run campaigns that promote voting for multiple candidates up and down the ballot. Some even share example ballots that make it easy to vote. 

Ballot chase with vote-by-mail lists


If you’re running an absentee ballot program, you can reach out to voters who have received a ballot and haven’t returned it yet. Staying on top of outstanding ballots can help ensure they are returned on time. If deadlines have passed for voters to mail a ballot, you can suggest alternative ways to vote such as returning the ballot to a drop box or in-person voting. These efforts can make sure no one is left out of the civic process. Follow-up is essential!

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Civitech’s step-by-step guide to conducting a GOTV program

GOTV programs can seem intimidating at first. Our texting experts have crafted a simple step-by-step guide to make it easy for you to run your campaign!

To ensure a successful campaign, follow these steps:

  1. Determine your goal: Before starting your campaign, make sure you choose a primary goal. With a GOTV campaign, it’s typically voter turnout, but you might have a few campaigns with slightly different goals. You might be focused on a classic GOTV campaign or maybe you’re doing an early vote push with a secondary goal of prospecting volunteers for Election Day. Just make sure you think about your end goal as a first step. 

  2. Identify your audience: The next step in any GOTV program is to figure out who to contact, and this will likely be supporters of your campaign or people who are likely to vote for you based on past support of progressives or Democrats.  

  3. Curate texting list: You can create a list of potential voters from existing data, canvassing, phone calls, or previous texting program contact lists.

  4. Craft messaging for your texting script: With your audience in mind, it’s time to create the perfect messaging! GOTV messaging typically includes polling dates, locations, and times. 

  5. Send texts: With all the prep work done, it’s time to send messages out. Be prepared to answer questions from voters. Many campaigns have a “frequently asked questions” bank for volunteers to use.

Best practices for GOTV campaigns

ID voters

Be sure to identify potential voters before you turn them out to vote. Everyone you are targeting for the last efforts before Election Day should be identified supporters or known progressives/Democrats. You want to ensure you reach your potential voters and get them to act.

Be ready for responses

Timing and quick turnarounds are important. Your texting tool needs to have automation to help you and your volunteers reply to people quickly. TextOut has an auto-reply feature that allows you to quickly respond to common questions so voters aren’t waiting hours for an answer. 

GOTV texting campaign success story

TextOut allows you to launch a program quickly to communicate with your voters. During Andy Beshear’s run for Kentucky Governor in 2019, he was running against an incumbent in a state that Trump won by 29+ points. The Beshear team ran a texting campaign that included listening, persuasion, GOTV texting programs, and vote tripling. 

The vote tripling efforts proved particularly effective. The precincts with the heaviest turnout had the most recorded vote triplers. In must-win Jefferson County, Beshear outpaced his opponent by nearly 100,000 votes. After reaching out to more than 500,000 voters via text message, Andy Beshear was elected by just 5,000 votes.

Example GOTV texting script

Type Message content Data tags

Initial outbound

Hi {{ContactFirstName}} it's {{SenderFirstName}}, a volunteer with <statement-candidate-intro>. <election-date> is Election Day! Our records show you vote at {{Polling location}}, {{Polling Address}}. What time do you plan to get to the polls? stop2quit


Has a Plan + Support

That sounds like a great plan! Polls are open from <polling-hours>. Can we also count on you to also get three friends to vote?


No Plan + Support

I like to vote early in the day to avoid the last-minute rush! Polls are open <polling-hours>. Can we also count on you to also get three friends to vote?


Totally get that. <statement-undecided-gotv> What's on your mind as you think about who you'll vote for?


Opposed > Open Minded Ask

<statement-gop> Would you be willing to keep an open mind on this race?


Already Voted + Support

That's great! Many supporters like you are encouraging 3 friends to vote. Can we also count on you to remind 3 friends to vote for <candidate-first-name>?

Already Voted, Support

Already Voted + Unknown Support

That's great! I hope <candidate-first-name> earned your vote in this election. Thanks so much for being an active voter.

Already Voted

Already Voted + Opposed

Thanks! Have I reached {{ContactFirstName}}?

Already Voted, Opposed

Opposed > Sign-off

Thanks for letting me know. Have a great day!


Tripler Ask

Thanks for your support! Many supporters like you are encouraging 3 friends to vote. Can we also count on you to remind 3 friends to vote for <candidate-first-name>?


Tripler = Yes

Forward this text to your friends right now and remind them to vote for <candidate-full-name> for <elected-position> this <election-date>. Polls are open <polling-hours> Find your polling location here: <polling-location-lookup-link>

Tripler = Yes

Tripler = No

Totally understand. The most important thing is your support and your vote! We look forward to seeing you at the polls this <election-date>

Tripler = No

Tripler = Maybe

Forward this text if anyone comes to mind and remind them to vote for <candidate-full-name> for <elected-position> this <election-date>. Polls are open <polling-hours> Find your polling location here: <polling-location-lookup-link>

Tripler = Maybe

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