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Robo-Calls, Similar Businesses Find Automated Political Phone Calls May Be Subject to Restrictions

Sun January 20 2008 3:33 am
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I do feel that the robocall/robocall work I do helps the party in a small way because they can take the savings and do other things like voter registration which, frankly, are probably more effective than robocalls.

Excessive automated phone calls, especially during elections, have people upset and states considering bans. Phone laws range from banning automated calls to limiting times when they occur. Some states require calls to identify callers. Other states ban political calls to people on the National Do Not Call Registry for commercial telemarketers. Federal law doesn’t restrict calls from political, religious or non-profit groups.

A spokesman for recently made this statement after his negative comment about his own business was emphasized in the press.

A USA Today reporter asked me if I thought robocalls were effective.  I gave him a long, but honest answer, which I stand by.  Unfortunately he picked out the one negative comment I made about robocalls.  Here’s the “whole answer” to that reporter’s question:

 I do feel that the robocall/robocall work I do helps the party in a small way because they can take the savings and do other things like voter registration which, frankly, are probably more effective than robocalls.

For what it’s worth, my experience is that informative robocalls telling [people in an organization] about a campaign event can be very effective.  Likewise, robopolls are the cheapest way for a campaign to gauge public opinion on an issue.  However, I highly doubt that robcalls saying “vote for me on election day” are useful at all, and that’s what I tell my clients.  I try to be honest with candidates.  A campaign that tries to replace personal voter contact with robocalls is a campaign in trouble.

…If the candidate can get Bill Clinton to say “vote for Joe”, then the calls can be effective in getting [people who are already sympathetic to the Party] to vote one way or another if they were initially undecided.

Some states allow on-demand absentee ballot voting, so we have done automated calls offering assistance to Democrats who want to apply for an absentee ballot. It’s something like a poll in that we ask them to press 1 if need assistance applying for an absentee ballot.  This works well for local candidates because they get one-on-one contact with voters.  We get a surprising number of people who press 1.

Few states have enforced their automated phone call laws or robo-call laws, partly out of fear that they violate free speech protections. Republican Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter says the laws are constitutional. He’s taken violators to court and won: “People want peace and quiet, not the incessant intrusion of political phone calls.”

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