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Democracy & Governance
Latin America and Caribbean

Get out the vote: Mobile reminders increase Brazilian voter participation

Solution: Digital CampaignViamo Platform

In association with

Viamo reminded and surveyed Brazilians about a participatory budgeting vote. The results: a 30 percent increase in voter participation.


In Brazil more than 100 cities give regular citizens a chance to decide how parts of a municipal or public budget should be allocated. The process is called participatory budgeting, or PB.
The first full participatory budgeting process started in 1989 in Porto Alegre, the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul state. As a result municipal authorities increased access to public amenities (water, sanitation, health care facilities, and schools) for people living in low-income communities.
A World Bank study showed that PB led to significant improvements, such as a 23 percent increase in sewer and water connections.

Participatory budgeting generally involves four basic steps:

  1. Community members identify spending priorities and select budget delegates
  2. Budget delegates develop specific spending proposals, with help from experts
  3. Community members vote on which proposals to fund
  4. The city or institution implements the top proposals


Voters contacted


Reminder messages led to increase in voter participation


Pre-vote and post-vote “exit surveys” conducted in


So participatory budgeting is a success. But how can you encourage more people to participate in the vote?

Despite their having never worked in Brazil before, Viamo delivered on all aspects of the project with world-class quality and reliability. The Viamo team proved to be a thoughtful and reliable partner.

Matt HaikinAptivate

What we did

Along with the World Bank and Aptivate, Viamo (via VOTO Mobile) set out to see if we could increase voter participation in a June 2014 participatory budgeting process in Porto Alegre. The plan was to send reminder messages to registered voters via IVR (interactive voice message), text message or email. The reminders were sent out 24 hours ahead of the vote and people were directed to cast their ballots online.
We designed the reminder message and translated it into Portuguese. We sent it out to more than 170,000 randomly-selected people based on voting records from Porto Alegre’s government. We also ran a follow-up “exit survey” a day after the vote to see how many people actually voted in the participatory budget.
This was all done in 10 days.


Our data indicated that the reminder messages led to a 30 percent increase in voter participation — an unprecedented result according to the World Bank.

Our “exit survey” indicated that more than 37 percent of people polled said they voted. For those who said no, 77 percent said they didn’t know about the vote, therefore, reflecting the value of mobile reminders. We surmise that if they had received the message, more would have voted.

What we learned

There is strong evidence to suggest reminder messages are very effective tools to encourage more people to vote in participatory budgets. But would it be as effective in convincing people to vote in a regular election where people are required to physically register and go to a polling station? That we don’t yet know. 

We want to investigate whether we could use mobile messages to increase voter turnout in countries where reminders may not be enough. For example, in Nigeria where intimidation and the threat of violence keeps people from voting in elections


Reminder messages could be effectively used by Brazil’s Supreme and Regional Electoral Court (and Electoral Commissions in other countries) to encourage more people to participate in official government elections.

The messaging platform could also help people locate their polling stations, and inform them about political parties and platforms. 

Pre-election surveys could encourage people to watch political debates or attend public forums. All of which would help people from different socioeconomic backgrounds participate in the democratic process and make informed decisions about policies that affect their lives. 

Aptivate has expressed interest in working on similar projects with us in the future. And we’ve already teamed up with the World Bank for a second project with a provincial health department.

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