Instead of having their phones ring off the hook, students may notice a lot more texts coming through. This is because political texts are becoming the new political calls in the hopes of reaching a younger generation, but young people may not know real people are sending the messages.

Vice President of the College Republicans Steven Stewart, a junior computer and information systems and finance major from Edwardsville, said text banking is a more modern way to engage with voters.

“Text banking is used by, a lot of times, political campaigns and stuff like that to kind of engage voters and get their opinions on things and reach out to them in that regard, since some of the more conventional ways of reaching voters and stuff like that, like knocking on doors and phone calling is kind of outdated … [We] obviously can’t knock on doors when we’re in the middle of global pandemic, so there’s ways around that and text banking is one of them,” Stewart said.

President of the College Democrats James Beverly, a senior applied communications studies major from Los Angeles, said the College Democrats have been text banking for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D-Springfiled), candidate for U.S. Representative, and State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), using relational and data text banking.

“For Betsy Dirksen Londrigan we do relational texting, where we take contacts out of our own contact list, and we’ll text them from our own personal phone numbers saying, ‘hey, I’m doing this, can we count on your support for Betsy?’ and engage in that way … they do say relational text banking is one of the most powerful ways because you already have that relationship established with them,” Beverly said. “As for Katie’s campaign, I get a list of registered voters between a certain age group and I just send a mass text to them using the app Hustle. And it’s the same way, it’s just less personal, where it’s a standard message, probably the messages you get on a day-to-day basis.”

Beverly said some people are unaware that a real person sends the texts, instead of a bot.

“They gave me a vile answer and I don’t want to just let that stand. So I think I just said, ‘can we count on your support for Katie?’ and they said something like, ‘I count on your support,’ something with my mom, and I was like, ‘do you count on Katie or not,’ and they’re like, ‘oh shoot, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know there was a person behind this,’” Beverly said.

According to Stewart, the College Republicans do not do text banking as an organization due to legal concerns.

“We found there’s some gray areas in the law that kind of prohibit just picking peoples’ phone numbers from a list and texting them. That’s not entirely clear whether it is actually legal or not,” Stewart said.

Secretary of the College Republicans Sophia Pritchett, a sophomore political science major from Staunton, Illinois, said she regularly receives political texts, but rarely responds.

“I either ignore [the messages] … or if I’m bored I’ll reply to them, but nine times out of 10, I ignore them,” Pritchett said.

Beverly said text banking has been far more successful than phone banking.

“Most times, people will not answer a number they don’t know, but they can still look at that text and it’s harder to delete it without reading even a snippet of it, so they’ll get the idea of it. So text banking is a lot more efficient than phone banking,” Beverly said.

To learn more about text banking or get involved, visit Demand the Vote.

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