The early vote window has already opened in some states and will open this week in a host of others.
For campaigns chasing absentee ballots, mail-in ballots and early in-person votes as part of their GOTV programs, they have more phone options this cycle.
Democratic camps, for instance, will have the option of low-cost, live operator cellphone calling—an innovation that recently emerged from the collections industry.
“Collections said, ‘what if we separate the sending from the talking?,’” said Marty Stone, a partner at Stones’ Phones. “What if you separate the two functions?”
Now, at Stones’ call centers, the number is loaded up by a computer, than an operator hits send and another operator is standing by to take calls, he said. “For the operator speaking, it feels no different than a predictive dialer.”
Robocalling cellphones is illegal, but the FCC allows campaigns to call mobile numbers as long as their vendors use a human’s “manual intervention,” according to Stone.
“It’ll be the new app for 2018 [dialing cellphones]. But I think every presidential will be doing it next cycle — Democrats and Republicans,” said Stone, whose firm offers clients the ability to call cellphones for 99 cents per completed call — roughly a third of the former cost. “There’s less and less people that have landlines on the [voter] file.”
Texting vendors have made inroads with campaigns, partly, because of the increasing reluctance of Americans to answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. But Stone said that politics-related calls to cells get better responses because of their novelty.
“People aren’t used to being called about politics on their cellphones,” said Stone, who advises making two-three calls to a voter as part of GOTV. “If we call them, we’re going to have conversations with 50-60 [percent].”
Meanwhile, on the GOP side, campaigns are getting more pitches about peer-to-peer texting.
“We’re going to see a lot of texts this cycle,” said John Gibson, a partner at FLS Connect, a GOP voter contact firm. “It’s a great way to communicate with mobile phones. They can ignore a phone call.”
Gibson noted that texting for GOTV needs to be calibrated to the voter.
“If they’re a reliable voter for your candidate, but they have a hard time voting historically, I’d have a live operator call them,” he said. “If you have a reliable voter that you’re hopeful is going to turnout, but you have some concern about, then it’s important to text that person and message them that way.”
He added: “My advice is trust your data. If you believe in your data, then believe in what it tells you. Depending on what your data says, you look at your budget: I can autocall these people. I can text these people. I can live cellphone call these folks.”
Despite the growing popularity of texting, Gibson agreed with Stone that investing in operator calls to cellphones was worth the money for GOTV in tight races.
“I do believe that live cellphone calling—the most expensive way to go—is still king,” he said.