How can campaigns call cell phones for GOTV?

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

A picture of hanging red telephones for GOTV

Marty Stone answers 7 questions on calling cell phones for GOTV

For the longest time you could not call cell phones in an efficient way but now Stones Phones has some exciting new technology to make it easier to call cell phones using volunteers or paid phone banks. We asked Marty Stone 7 questions on calling cell phones for GOTV. He answered our questions here:

How can campaigns call cell phones for GOTV?

Campaigns and causes can call cell phones with either operators or their own volunteers.
On the volunteer side,  we have developed a new product called Ringer, powered through our partnership with Relay. It’s a new dialing system that lets campaign volunteers reach voters on their landlines or cell phones, without having to dial each number. Remember – if you’re putting cell phones on a traditional predictive dialer, that’s illegal!

On the paid phones side, we’ve implemented similar technology in our call centers. When campaigns get slammed with GOTV and run out of volunteer capacity, we can always have our operators get on the phone to bring things home.

Why has it been hard to do this until now? 
Until now, to call cell phones each number had to be dialed by hand. Each volunteer or call center operator would 1) have to dial a key on the computer or the whole 10-digit number, wait for it to ring, and hopefully someone picks up; and 2) have to start all over for the next one. For volunteers, that takes a lot of time; for paid phone programs, the costs were just too steep – often three times as much as calling landlines.

To increase the speed and efficiency of manually calling cell phones, we divided up the two tasks. Now, some people manually place the call, and others talk to the voter. The new system allows volunteers and operators to call at speeds similar to a predictive dialer, so you’re not wasting volunteer hours or paid phone budgets on hand-dialing.

How can you include cell phone call in your gotv plan?
Take a look at your list of GOTV targets – how many of them only have a cell phone number on the file?  These cell phone only voters would be your first priority, since they’re receiving less communications than other voters. Actually, since this technology only exists on the Democratic/Progressive side, you could be out-maneuvering your opponents.

The cell phone-only voter universe should be expanded to those who have a landline but never answer when you call – frankly, there are a lot of people with “Triple Play” cable packages who don’t even have their landline hooked up.

Additionally, you can add new cell numbers from consumer databases to your list.

Basically, any time before that you were just calling landlines, you can now call cell phones as well. GOTV phones are effective not only the few days before Election Day, but also as early vote or vote by mail deadlines approach.

Why is calling cell phones a game changer for GOTV?
As progressives,  cell-phone only universes tend to be our people. If you’re young and non-white, you’re more likely to just have a cell phone on the file – no landline. These are the people we need to be talking to and pushing to the polls.  If we’re not talking to them, and so far we haven’t been, there’s a real chance they won’t be motivated to cast a ballot.

Last cycle we rolled out call canter-based manual texting to communicate with these folks at an affordable rate. On the volunteer side it was Hustle, Relay, or Megaphone. We still think manual texting is a great technology to push out unique content – images, videos, calendar reminders – and it should have a place in your GOTV program. But having a live conversation with a voter is more powerful and really much more cost effective than manual texting.

How much time do you need to set up this program?
Turnaround time is fast. Stones’ Phones can get cell phone GOTV calls started in our call centers the next day.

Getting your volunteers started on our Ringer just requires some training for the campaign staffer that’s managing the calling. Once that’s done, it takes minutes to set up a campaign, load a script and list, and start your volunteers calling. And you can do script and list changes on the fly, without pausing calling.

How is volunteer intensive this?

Ringer has really fast dialing speeds – each volunteer averages 300+ dials per hour. If you had a universe of 12,000 GOTV targets and 10 volunteers scheduled for phone banking, you can knock out a pass on that list in about 4 hours.

When we call from our call centers, no volunteers required!

What is different about this technology? How does it work? 

To be allowed under FCC rules, there needs to be manual intervention when you place each call. A click, a keystroke, whatever – a person has to manually intervene each time.

From there, the call can get instantly transferred over to a waiting caller.

What is a good example of how this was used that you can share?
We worked on a recent gubernatorial race that was in a dead heat a few days before the election. Their pollster said they needed to GOTV a universe of 60,000 young men or they would lose.

But, these were all cell-only voters. It cost a pretty penny – nearly $2.50 per completed call – but we ran the call and the candidate squeaked by with a win margin of a few thousand votes. With our new technology, that would’ve been just under $1 per complete, putting it within reach of many more campaigns.

What does it cost to call cell phones for GOTV?

Using our call centers, it’s just $0.99 per completed call. Cost is one thing – the impact of calling is quite another. For example, if your paid cell phone GOTV program includes an ID, the cost per ID captured would be about $1.50. Compare that to:


  • $3 for live calling cells the old-fashioned way
  • $1 for live calling landlines
  • $5-6 for manual texting


Using Ringer, your volunteers can call voters at just $0.07 per dial.


Thank you Marty Stone and Stones Phones for answer our questions about calling cell phones for GOTV. Have questions about calling cell phones ask them here: