How are social media and digital technology shaping elections? This question is more important than ever, yet few studies look at WhatsApp's impact on the political landscape—even in Africa, where it is the dominant messaging platform. This article combines a case study of Nigeria's 2019 elections with surveys and analysis from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone to show how social media are used by parties, candidates and voters. We conclude that WhatsApp is a disruptive technology that challenges existing hierarchies in ways that are simultaneously emancipatory and destructive, strengthening and undermining democratic consolidation at the same time.