Who dis? Meet the guy behind those ‘go vote’ texts
Text Messaging


You’ve gotten the texts. The ones that start out saying “It’s AJ” or “It’s Tom” or some other name, and just as you try to remember how anyone named AJ got your number, they deliver the “ask.” They want you to vote for a candidate, or maybe a constitutional amendment.

Sorry to ruin the magic, but that email didn’t come from Tom or AJ or even “Carole.” But there’s a strong chance it came from Elnatan Rudolph, a New Jersey-based political consultant with a knack for tech.

“My entire career has been putting together technology and political campaigns,” he says.


Various campaigns across the country in the final days of the 2018 mid-terms have sent 2 million texts a day using software created by Rudolph’s firm JHSM. The typical Florida super-voter could get as many as 10 texts a day reminding them to head to the polls.

And thanks to getting on the Ron DeSantis for Governor train early, Rudolph’s company has a hand in a great many of the messages blowing up phones in the Sunshine State.

So this is the man to … er, thank?… for reminding you to vote. Again. And again. And again.

Teaching Giuliani to email

Rudolph traces his own interest in politics back to age 10, when as a child he would accompany his father to campaign events for future Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Rudolph’s interest in the Republican leader and his administration only grew as he aged. He realized Giuliani’s chief of staffBruce Teitelbaum, graduated from his high school. Then Rudolph became more involved in Giuliani’s campaign himself.

So when he was just 16, Rudolph got involved with Giuliani’s political campaigns as a volunteer, and stuck around through a mayoral re-election campaign and Giuliani’s ultimately aborted run for U.S. Senate against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

What’s a youngster working on the political campaign do to help New York City’s most seasoned political operators in the late 1990s?

He explained e-mail of course.

In fact, Rudolph worked on the first city campaigns to include emails to supporters as part of their efforts years before inboxes brimmed with pleas for last-minute donations.

Rudolph at age 18, just old enough to vote, then launched his own political consulting company specializing in helping low-level judicial and state assembly campaigns build up their infrastructure.

Then he ended up working a little in Democratic politics, taking a job under Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant who worked with President Bill Clinton at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Building his connections with campaign pros in Washington, Rudolph from there advised campaigns all over the world. Along the way, he also won a two-year term on the Teaneck, New Jersey Town Council at age 24, just to get a taste of the elected official life.

“The hardest job out of any elected officials is to be a local elected official, where people who vote for you or disagree with you see you on the street or in the supermarket,” he says.

Rudolph’s path first reached the Sunshine State around 2006 when then-Senate Republican Whip Alex Diaz de la Portilla hired him to do direct mail work. He’s had his toes in Florida politics ever since.

Text time

In 2017, Rudolph first started playing in the text message space. There had been efforts to use such messages for get-out-the-vote efforts in the past, but he wanted to start toying with technology in an off-year.

It started out when he did “Happy Birthday” messages from U.S. Rep. Brian Mast to constituents. That, he recalls, drew guffaws at first.

“Other consultants said, ‘You’re crazy. Nobody wants to hear from a politician wishing them a happy birthday,’ ” Rudolph says. “But they do. People really do not want to hear from elected officials for the first time during campaign time.”

In fact, if constituents get that warm feeling of a birthday text in an odd-numbered year, they aren’t so quick to dismiss a follow-up text in advance of an election.

Mast’s stock birthday video to date has racked up 30,000 views, and Rudolph now provides similar messaging services to more than 50 other elected officials.

Then he hooked up with DeSantis’ then-longshot gubernatorial campaign.

“Before it was cool, we were on board with DeSantis,” he boasts. “It was us and Fox News.”

The first important campaign text Rudolph’s company blasted out for DeSantis came after President Donald Trump endorsed the congressman back in December.

Now, JHSM continues to do work for the campaign in the final stretch of the 2018 cycle.

Let fingers do the talking

Of course, Rudolph doesn’t send 2 million texts each day by himself. That’s the job of sore-fingered volunteers working for individual candidates.

But every one of those lovely messages comes from a real human being who presses a “Send” button.

“It’s illegal to blast-text,” Rudolph explains, “but peer-to-peer texting is fine.”

Rudolph buys cell numbers from the sort of clearinghouses that stockpile such things. He digitally cross-references that information with voter registration files, which typically don’t include mobile phone contacts.

From there, he sets up messages using software, then loads data into the program as well. Suddenly, texts get formed that name the voter and offer a warm and fuzzy alias as the supposed sender.

That’s right, Tom and AJ don’t even exist.

Does all this follow the spirit of the peer-to-peer texting requirements? Rudolph hems and haws, then drives home the important part: “It doesn’t violate the letter of the law.”

And if it ends up getting clients elected, Rudolph expects the people paying his fees won’t feel that annoyed about the texts.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • lawson

    November 6, 2018 at 7:17 am

    Most of us want to have the happiness of freedom, enjoy our life independently. But when we are talking about Headphones, then being free is come to the point through Wireless Headphones. Using Wired Headphones is like the prisoner with chain. So, let’s taste the life of freedom by getting rid of cable, by having the fun of Wireless Bluetooth Headphones.

  • Walter Peterson

    November 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I was beyond frustrated with daily interruptions in my day all because of these annoying text. I don’t need your stupid texts to remind me to vote nor do I want them. I wish this activity was illegal!! I’m not sure that would stop you though. By the way, I am almost positive that by sending this I am about the receive numerous unwanted emails…. Do us a favor and find another job/hobby!! Jerks

Comments are closed.


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