In the Philippines, text messaging helped topple a government in 2001. SMS messages directed 700,000 demonstrators to Manila's People Power shrine to demand the removal of then President Joseph Estrada, who stepped down in favor of his Vice President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The 2004 election also saw SMS used to try to influence votes—including one hoax that Arroyo was fleeing the country.
After terrorist bombings in Madrid killed 202 people just three days before general elections, Spanish activists used SMS messages to organize protests against the ruling Popular Party. Mobile-service providers say SMS transmissions swelled by 40% on voting day as Spain's opposition Socialist Party swept into power.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress Party both targeted India's 30 million mobile-phone users in their parliamentary campaigns in April. The BJP stuck to its self-proclaimed "feel-good" campaign theme, sending out automated voice messages recorded by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Congress rebutted with text messages that read, "Some only feel good. Others have good feelings for you," on its way to an upset victory.
In advance of September's legislative elections, local think tank Civic Exchange plans to launch VOTE04, an online service that candidates can use to send text ads to voters' mobiles. The group is providing the service in the hopes of leveraging the city's high phone-ownership rate—more than 89% carry mobiles—into a high voter turnout.
Political action group Rock the Vote is using SMS to stir up voter turnout among 18- to 24-year-old Americans—only a third of whom voted in the 2000 presidential election—with surveys, quizzes and directions to polling locations. SMS has already helped one nonpolitician to victory in the U.S.: American Idol crooner Ruben Studdard. Fans in the U.S. cast 2.5 million votes for their favorite idol via mobile-phone text messages during the show's second-season finale.