By Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson
Last year, California became the first state to permit campaign contributions via text message, a move that was followed up by the Federal Election Commission in June, setting the stage for text-to-donate in national elections.
But the question is why. The purpose behind new policy is to allow more people to participate in the electoral and political processes. The idea is text message contributions will make it quicker and easier for small dollar contributors to give. In addition, the belief is that it will be the younger members of the electorate, who do not typically give campaign donations, who will disproportionately take advantage of these new rules.
These are real and important goals. Younger members of the electorate do not vote nearly as much as older members. Perhaps if they buy in, both literally and figuratively, to the electoral process they will feel compelled to make their voices heard at the ballot box in greater numbers.
In addition, bringing in new contributors by allowing contributions by text message could change the tone and substance of the debate. If candidates feel that young people and/or small contributors are engaged in the process, they could hear more from, and hence be more responsive to, the concerns of more segments of the electorate.
The new rules largely enjoy bipartisan support. A cynic would say this is in part because it looks bad for any politician to come out against a proposal that could increase civic engagement. In addition, which politician wouldn't like the chance to collect more campaign contributions?
Happy texting, campaign contributors.