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Political texting rules for bulk SMS that you can’t ignore

Are political texts illegal? Check out the political texting rules and bulk SMS best practices you need to stay compliant and keep supporters engaged.

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Over the last few election cycles, we’ve seen narrow races that prove every vote counts.

For candidates looking to create a personal relationship with voters without coming across like a telemarketer, texting is the ideal middle ground. Even with all of texting’s benefits, though, it’s possible to mismanage your messaging strategy and annoy your supporters. 

To help prevent this, I’ll share some rules and guidelines to keep in mind as you plan your political SMS strategy.


Are political texts illegal?

Political campaign text messages are legal, but there are certain actions that can make your texts illegal. 

It all comes down to the basic guidelines of permission. Our SMS compliance guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting express written consent to text your contacts, but here are the highlights:

  • You cannot purchase a list of random phone numbers to text.
  • Promotional messages that are sent from an automated system are illegal unless the recipient gives their prior express consent.
  • You must clearly state the identity of the business, individual, or other entity sending the text at the beginning of the message.

Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

U.S. organizations that oversee political texting rules

In the U.S., there are two primary organizations that help regulate political text messages. These groups ensure fair practices that protect recipients from unsolicited or misleading messages.

Violating texting compliance rules can lead to fines and even legal consequences.

Organizations that regulate U.S. political text messages:

At a high level, you need to:

  • Register your organization with Campaign Verify if you have a non-profit EIN and want to use a 10DLC number.
  • Ask people for explicit permission to text them.
  • Include a disclosure about the nature of your text messages (see the sections below about the FCC and CTIA for more information about what to include).
  • Send a confirmation message after a contact joins your texting list that tells them they’ll receive recurring messages and how to opt out.
A voting rights organization flyer with an invitation to text the keyword VOLUNTEER to 900900, as well as a bulk sms disclaimer to comply with political texting rules
An example of a political organization’s invitation to join their SMS list.

An example of a political organization’s invitation to join their SMS list.

Let’s take a closer look at the FCC and the CTIA.

FCC regulations for political bulk SMS

The FCC is the regulatory body that oversees media and phone communications in the United States. They’re responsible for enforcing legislation called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that governs the telecommunications industry.

Since 1991, the TCPA has provided rules for:

  • Telemarketing calls
  • Auto-dialed calls (also called robocalls)
  • Prerecorded/artificial voice calls
  • Text messages (though the law doesn’t mention them by name)
  • Unsolicited faxes
  • The national Do Not Call registry

The text messages that fall under the TCPA specifically are those sent from an application to a personal phone (known as A2P messaging). If you’re sending texts from an SMS service provider like SimpleTexting, you’re sending A2P messages.

TCPA text message regulations:

  • Organizations must obtain express consent from individuals before sending them automated text messages.
  • Express written consent should include a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the person is agreeing to receive marketing messages sent by an autodialer and that consent is not a condition of purchase.

💡 Learn about compliant opt-in methods to collect permission to text your supporters.

Some political organizations get around the TCPA’s rules for sending unsolicited texts by having volunteers send messages from their personal phones. While not (yet) illegal, sending texts without permission from a personal phone is a sure way to annoy your supporters.

Are political text messages exempt from the Do Not Call Registry?

Technically, political texts are exempt from the Do Not Call registry, which is a list of citizens who have opted out of telemarketing calls. But they are regulated by the TCPA.

CTIA guidelines for political bulk SMS

The CTIA is an industry organization that represents the interests of the telecommunications industry, like fighting spam text messages. 

Though it’s not a government agency, the CTIA creates guidelines to help organizations maintain good standing with wireless carriers and oversees short codes (5- or 6-digit numbers, which are common for political campaigns).

According to the CTIA, your invitation to join your texting list (or “call-to-action”) should clearly list:

  • Your organization’s name
  • Your phone number or short code that the messages will come from
  • The name of the organization or individual being represented in the initial message
  • Any associated fees or charges (eg. “message and data rates may apply”)
  • Other applicable terms and conditions, like how to opt-out, how to get in touch for more information, and any applicable privacy policy

After a contact opts into your texting list, you’ll need to send a confirmation message that includes:

  • Your organization’s name
  • How to get in touch if they have questions
  • How to opt out of the texting list
  • A disclosure that the messages are recurring and the frequency of the messaging (usually expressed in the number of messages per week or month)
  • Any associated fees or charges for sending and receiving messages

You’ve agreed to receive messages from KNOPE FOR INDIANA. 4 msg/mo. Reply STOP to unsubscribe or HELP for help. Msg&Data rates may apply.

Campaign Verify regulations for political bulk SMS

Campaign Verify is a non-partisan, nonprofit service that helps validate the identity of political campaigns, parties, and PACs in the U.S. Its mission is to rebuild Americans’ trust in the electoral process, specifically by regulating political text messages and other communications.

If you want to send political messages from a 10DLC number and your organization has a non-profit EIN, you must first register directly with Campaign Verify and obtain an Authorization Token (which carries a one-time fee of $95 per two-year election cycle).

If you don’t want to register your organization or don’t have a non-profit EIN, you can choose to text from a toll-free number instead.

Canada’s political text message regulations

In Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the group that sets rules for unsolicited telecommunications. Like the FCC in the U.S., the CRTC is focused on protecting citizens from spam and scam calls. 

Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), political organizations and candidates must adhere to a set of regulations when sending electronic messages, depending on the nature of their messages. 

If your texts promote a political organization or candidate, you need to:

  1. Obtain consent
  2. Provide identification information
  3. Provide an unsubscribe mechanism

If your texts solicit a financial donation or non-monetary contribution, you don’t need to obtain express consent to send messages.

How to keep supporters engaged with bulk SMS for election campaigns

In the run-up to an election, most people receive dozens of political text messages—many of which they never signed up to receive. 

Here are a few best practices to help you build a list of engaged SMS contacts who look forward to your texts.

Best practices for political bulk SMS

  1. Keep your message frequency reasonable.
  2. Personalize your messages whenever possible.
  3. Be specific about what actions you want them to take.
  4. Focus your content on your contacts’ interests.

Keep your message frequency reasonable

Since every campaign and organization has different goals and supporter demographics, I can’t give you a specific message frequency. But a general guideline is to only send texts when you have something valuable or noteworthy to share. 

You can look in your SMS platform’s analytics dashboard to see if people are clicking on links in your texts and whether people are unsubscribing. Decreasing click-through rates and increasing unsubscribe rates are signs that your message frequency (and possibly the contents of your messages) aren’t working for your contacts.

Personalize your messages whenever possible

Want to connect with your supporters and inspire them to take action? Personalize your texts with custom fields. Something as simple as seeing their name could drive someone to open or click where they otherwise might not have.

Be specific about what actions you want supporters to take

Include an explicit call to action in your texts to encourage people to show their support. 

Example political text calls-to-action:

  • Register to vote
  • Vote for me on [date] 
  • Pledge your support
  • Volunteer at this event
  • Donate to the cause

Focus your content on your contacts’ interests and demographics

Keep your contacts engaged and responsive to your messages by collecting information about their interests and demographics. 

For example, you can use our Data Collection feature to ask contacts about what political issues they care about and where they live. Then you can segment your contacts and send targeted messages, like information about how your candidate is supporting certain causes and when they’ll be visiting specific locations.

Ready to start building your political campaign’s SMS list? Sign up for a free 14-day trial of our text messaging platform today.

This piece was originally published March 30, 2020. It was refreshed May 23, 2023. Meghan Tocci and Dani Henion contributed to this piece.

Meghan Tocci
Meghan Tocci

Meghan Tocci is a content strategist at SimpleTexting. When she’s not writing about SaaS, she’s trying to teach her puppy Lou how to code. So far, not so good.

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