VoIP Plays Big Role in Presidential Election Turnout

One service provider notes a five-fold increase in traffic as Democratic Party volunteers make thousands of VoIP calls on behalf of Senator John Kerry into battleground states in what some are saying is one of the highest voter turnouts in decades.

VoIP may have played a role in choosing the next president of the United States.

Ravi Sakaria, chief executive officer of VoicePulse, said his company was seeing five times the normal call volume, with all of the spike due to calls from political volunteers in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Many political pundits have been saying the candidate that carries two of these states will win the election.

Seeing the spike in traffic, Sakaria did a quick check of caller IDs and found that most of the calls from the Democratic party, though there were some VoIP calls from Republican volunteers as well.

Early exit polls from pollster Zogby indicated that Democratic candidate John Kerry would win the election handily, with 311 electoral votes to incumbent president George Bush’s 213.

Executives from NuFone and BroadVoice also reported spikes in volume, which could be attributed to the election.

“One of the accounts I looked at, in the last 12 hours had made 15,500 phone calls,” Sakaria said. The spikes were on the company’s VoicePulse Connect accounts, which carry a per-minute charge, but don’t limit total usage. NuFone offers a similar plan.

BroadVoice doesn’t offer such a plan, and said its spike in traffic wasn’t unusual.

The record interest in the 2004 Presidential election was also bottling up the services of the VoIP carriers offering the per-minute fee calling plans, and was expected to have a similar affect on a few competitive local exchange carriers.

VoicePulse had gotten an indication that their volume might pick up as the company installed equipment various in campaign locations, and even had engineers working on adding network equipment into the early hours of Tuesday. It still wasn’t enough to handle the additional traffic, according to Sakaria, who said that the company usually operates at 50 percent of capacity. So numerous calls weren’t going through due to the equipment overload.

Sakaria expected the heaviest volume to be between 6 and 8 p.m., just as the polls are closing.

Though the company didn’t report the same capacity challenges as VoicePulse, NuFone’s Jeremy McNamara said his company volume nearly doubled its call volume for early on a Tuesday and had expected even higher usage later in the day. The company had been working with underlying carriers to add capacity.

Vonage didn’t know if there was any additional call volume Tuesday, but the company said it did have a significant number of installations in political campaign offices.