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Email, text message can increase voter turnout

Published:Friday | June 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM


WHAT IF there was a definitive time-tested and scientifically proven way to increase the election day turnout of youth voters by as much as three to four per cent - would it matter?

There is absolutely no doubt that all of Jamaica's political parties - but primarily the Jamaica Labour Party - would find that information useful.

In the December 2011 general election, which the People's National Party won by some 19 seats, there were as many as 14 constituencies that were decided by voting margins of less than four per cent.

Considering the meagre margins in so many constituencies, Jamaican politicians will certainly examine with intrigue the bold, but defensible, assertions of the American political group Rock the Vote (RTV).

"We know that if we send an email that says, 'Election day is tomorrow, you need to go to the polls, they are open from 9 a.m.- 9 p.m ... .' - we can see increases of three to four percentage points by just sending a text message along with that email," stated Chrissy Faessen, vice-president of marketing and communication of RTV.

Speaking with The Gleaner at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, DC, on Monday, Faessen took pains to highlight that RTV ensures increased success in its effort to engage youth voters by investing in sustained research of what exactly reaches youth.

Tested and proven

"Everything that we do, from sending voter registration reminders on election day, or on registration days, we test it," Faessen said.

She added: "We test the subject line. We test who sends it. We test the graphics that are a part of that email, the time of day we send it." The tests are as intensive as clinical trials.

Essentially, RTV's message is that youth voters are not all unreachable and hopelessly apathetic. They can be reached by leaders who are interested enough to find out the best ways of connecting to them.

RTV's use of 'voter pledge reminders' yields yet another interesting batch of data on how to motivate youth voters.

Once people register to vote through RTV they sign a pledge card. It is a commitment to participate in the process. Immediately prior to an election, RTV reminds youth of their pledge.

"Sometimes these are postcards that we actually send back to people right before the election that says, 'Remember, you pledged'," Faessen explained.

Just how effective are these reminders? Faessen claimed that simply "reminding people of their pledge to vote can boost (election day) turnout by 10 to 14 percentage points".

RTV is the largest non-partisan voter-registering body in the United States of America.

Constituency JLP PNP

1. West Rural St Andrew 48.8 50.3
2. Eastern St Andrew 48.5 50. 5
3. East Rural St Andrew 48.9 50.3
4. Western St Thomas 50. 4 48.6
5. Eastern St Thomas 48.1 51.1
6. South Eastern St Mary 48. 4 51.3
7. Western St Mary 49.2 50. 4
8. East Central St James 49.7 48.3
9. Central St James 49.3 50. 1
10. Eastern Hanover 48.9 50.7
11. South Western St Elizabeth 49.8 49.9
12. Central Manchester 48.3 50.9
13. North Eastern Manchester 51.6 48.0
14. South Eastern Clarendon 50.1 49.5

Numbers taken directly from the Electoral Office of Jamaica's parliamentary elections report, published at

This year, patrons can expect a wide variety of foods, with the addition of conch, mutton, shrimp and lobster, all cooked in traditional authentic jerk sauce. Vegetarian meals will also be available.