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Text messages surge on election night

November 6, 2008 |  3:41 pm

Obama phone We've heard by now that this election was historic for many reasons, including that voter turnout was the highest since 1960 and that a record number of people watched the election returns on TV. But people weren't simply voting and watching TV on election day. They were also sending text messages. A lot of text messages.

AT&T said today that on election night, it saw the largest text messaging jump in the company's history: Traffic surged 44%. In comparison, Christmas of last year saw a 30% spike in traffic, New Year's saw a 26% increase and Valentine's Day saw a 33% boost. (Are that many people really sending "I heart you" text messages to their significant others on Valentine's Day?)

In L.A. County between 7 and 9 p.m. on election night, Sprint saw a 30% increase in text messages sent.

During the 10 minutes after West Coast polls closed and the TV networks proclaimed Barack Obama the winner, the number of text messages was triple the normal volume for that period, according to Sybase 365, a provider of mobile messaging services.

It's a fitting end to the Obama campaign, which famously announced Joe Biden as its vice presidential candidate through a text message sent to supporters. Or then again, maybe all those text messages were from the Obama campaign. Some pundits say the campaign's text message strategies helped it win the election. Will the marriage of text messaging and politics carry into an Obama White House? The wireless carriers can only hope.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo credit: craig1black via Flickr