Shelly Palmer

Election Robocalls: It’s On


With the presidential election a month away, robocalls are in full swing for both candidates. For both political parties, actually. On the national level. On the state level. For all sorts of voting issues. Oh, it’s on.

You know the drill—you get home from work, sit down to relax… and your phone rings. Some people get annoyed at the intrusion, while others are happy to take an active part in the process.

Robocalls are the calls you get from automated systems—autodialers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines robocalls as “unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to landline home telephones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls to wireless numbers, emergency numbers and patient rooms at healthcare facilities.”

In an interview with Politico, Tatango CEO Derek Johnson said robocalling campaigns are a delicate issue. Especially for those of us who use mobile phones as our primary phones and have to pay for the call or text received.

“Sending text messages en masse to anyone who hasn’t opted in is not a good policy because people don’t like you,” said Johnson, whose text-based marketing platform is being used by Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s reelection bid. “People really get offended.

In the Massachusetts race for the Senate between Republican incumbent Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, robocalls have actually become a hot topic of debate.

In a nutshell: Both candidates pledged in January to refrain from using third-party organizations, such as super PACs, in the race. Specifically, they wouldn’t use them for funding TV, radio or internet ads, according to the Boston Globe.

Well, it turns out some third-party groups have turned to robocalls. And now both candidates are accusing the other of violating the agreement by collaborating with those groups.

Some are offended by the calls, others aren’t. (I personally pick up when they’ve called me enough times that I recognize the number and they’ve successfully guilted me into taking an active role in things. So I’m somewhere in the middle.)

“I think they’re absolutely vital,” voter Cyndi Everetts told CBS Denver. “I was pleased to get the call. I feel like it’s my responsibility to answer when somebody asks me my opinion.”

From the activist’s side, it’s viewed as worthwhile.

“It’s really just a very inexpensive way to contact a lot of people at once,” University of Denver Political Science Professor Seth Masket told CBS Denver. “You don’t even really need employees to run the thing. It’s so inexpensive to contact that one extra person that as long as you’ve persuaded even a handful of people, it can be seen as worth it.”

Okay, so how do the robocalls work? Stay tuned for the follow-up to this post next week…