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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Isn't It Time to Stop Political Robo Calls?

Tuesday's USA Today includes an op-ed with some encouraging news about political robo-calls. "Half a dozen states have restricted or banned prerecorded or automated political phone calls, and courts so far have upheld the limits."

Will Wisconsin become the seventh? Legislation banning these calls has been proposed, but Citizens for Civil Discourse Founder Shaun Dakin asks this pointed question - "Is this yet another cynical ploy to get voters to believe that legislators actually want to take away a tool in their voter communication toolbox?"

If Northampton County's recent experience is any guide, it's time to drop this useless tool. It might be cheap, but these unsolicited automated calls just annoy people.

Inside word is that someone in the land of midnight payraises is drafting legislation to stop this madness. Stay tuned.


GB said...

legislation was posed last session too... nothing happened with it. The state reps don't want to handcuff their campaign tactics. They never know when they will step in the mess of a pay raise again.

But here is something to consider: were they really useless? my take would be that they weren't useless if they backfired on some candidates that used them inappopriately. Did they have the desired effects? No, but they helped voters understand the heart of the candidates that were running.

Keep robo calls and use them as a way to determine good candidates from bad. Good canidates will use them to promote themselves through an introduction and brief message. Bad will use them to tear apart their opponent. They are annoying but I don't think we should use that as an excuse to further remove candidates from the already apothetic electorate. If that was the case, we could reasonably expect to remove all annoying campaign tactics...starting with TV ads.

not so casual observer said...

Research has proven that get out the vote calls can raise voter turnout dramatically. It is also a quick, inexpensive and potentially non intrusive way to disseminate information to the voting public.

It is a shame that the gross misuse of this tool has given it the same reputuation as attack flyers.

A well done , brief message from an elected official or candidate can be a positive influence in government and elections. It would be a shame to let the ugliness of this past election cycle remove that tool from the process.

Rather, we should insure that these calls are attributed to the purchaser of the calls. It is far more likely to be obnoxiuos or intusive if it comes John Doe.

The last election cycle was a primer on dirty politics, bad campaigning and what is wrong with the system.

Let's clean it up and not destroy it completely.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd agree that a brief call from a candidate on election eve, reminding folks to vote, is no big deal. But their use has been perverted. People will get five or six hang ups, get called after 9 PM, sometimes are concerned that it might be bad news about family and start getting stressed, etc. In this 1-800-NOTES, you can read a lot of complaints. Ban 'em. If you want to reach the voter, do it with a real person.

Free Speech said...

If you do not like the calls, hang up or add yourself to the do not call list.

Regulation of our 1st ammendment--1st for a reason--free speech is the most important democratic value we have--is to undermine the very nature of the electoral process.

If you dont like robo calls, vote for the other guy or run yourself.

Continued regulation of free speech, in other words--speech you dont like. nor should you, sometimes, is orwellian, fascist, the kind of thing communist dictators and kings of yore did....this is the USA, get use to free speech while we still have it

Bernie O'Hare said...

Free Speech

1. You can't add yourself to the DO NOT CALL list because it does not apply to political calls.

2. Freedom of Speech is a two-way street. It does not countenance forcing a person to listen to automated messages. Talk about Orwellian. Just as we should have freedomn to walk away from a message we don't want to hear on a sidewalk, or to decline a leaflet, we should not be forced to listen to those automated voices.

3. There's one right more important than free speech - the right to vote. Those robo calls suppress the vote and interefere with that right.

Anonymous said...

1. So hang up. Limiting the rights of free people to excercise their constitutionally protect right to free speech is far more odious than a mechanized voice. Or vote against the person making the call.

2. You are not forced to listen. Hang up.

3.To suggest robo calls suppress democracy is to insult the voters' intelligence and common sense. If a mechanized voice can deter you from excercising your rights, perhaps you are a weak minded sap deserving of more robo calls.

Come on, who is going NOT vote because someone said something nasty about someone.

Which is the lesser evil: annoying silly, ineffective mechanized voices or infringing on our history's greatest achievement--free speech.

A.J. Cordi said...

I don't see anything wrong with political robo calls. They're a great way for candidates to reach the voters. I'd prefer not to receive them, but they aren't all bad. However, this method is heavily abused now.

If a candidate is going to use robo calls, they should only be allowed to use them in a way that promotes their positions. They shouldn't be allowed to compare themselves to, or speak of, any other opponents. That's what debates are for.

That's my opinion, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder what the take here would be if someone had done robo-calls on Angle's behalf, instead of against him. I agree with other posters -- if you don't like them, hang up. I can't see how they could possibly suppress democracy, unless by "democracy," you mean "encouraging voters to support the guy I don't like."

Now that's Orwellian.

Personally, I'd rather have the robo-call than the direct mail, which clogs my mailbox and ultimately, a landfill. I can always hang up. This is just technology. If it doesn't work, the campaigners will move to something that works better. I can imagine some of these whiners yelping 400 or 500 years ago "don't let my opponent use the printing press to spread his views. Tell him to use the town crier like everyone else..."

Bernie O'Hare said...

1. The calls then continue. People report getting five or six calls a night. You listen to an automated message. It is unsolicited. This is not free speech, but harrassment.

2. See #1.

3. Check out 800notes.com . These annoying automated voices do suppress the vote, the exact opposite of their intended purpose. Unlike mail or other forms of communication, it's hard to ignore a phone that won't stop ringing, no matter how many times you hang up. This is not free speech - it is forced speech. If I walk to the post office and a leafleter wants to give me an anti-war flier, I have the right to tell him I'm not interested and walk away. But those automated voices insist on speaking to you, whether you want to hear from them or not. At that point, you go beyond free speech to bullying. People should have the right to say they don't want these calls. A law that permits you to add automated political calls to a DO NOT CALL list is an no way a free speech infringement.

I do appreciate your contrary view, which you state well.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I can't help but wonder what the take here would be if someone had done robo-calls on Angle's behalf, instead of against him."

This kind of argument kills me. It's the kind of bullshit I'd expect from someone who advocates those snarky robo-calls.

Angle did have some robo-calls go out. So did Ferraro. I don't like them. I don't pick and choose my arguments based on the candidate.

Even though these calls are ineffective and annoy the hell out of recipients, policial consultants will use them because it improves their own bottom line. This has nothing to do with free speech.

People should be able to say NO to these calls just as easily as they can say NO to a robo-call from the Sports Authority.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Bernie. I don't want free speech infringed upon, but this is paid political speech and is no different from Sports Authority, who may not ring my phone.

I don't want my phone rung by those I haven't given permission. Period. What is so difficult for some of these posters to understand? Don't call my frickin' house. Got it?

If I want political information prior to an election, I'll go find it myself or permit myself to be subjected while viewing TV, listening to radio, or housebreaking a puppy with Joe Owens' latest effort.

And as far as "getting out the vote", spare me. If you require a phone call to get your lazy, uninformed ass out to vote, we're all better off if you just stay home and celebrate your ignorant bliss.

LehighValleyHousewife said...

To Anon 6:22 - thank you for saving me the typing. ICAM with what you've said.

Free Speech said...

Anon 6:22, Your personal distaste for some forms of excercising free speech is exactly the direction we are moving in this country. You should be pleased with the state of affairs.

Free speech--of which paid speech an excercise of it--should not be infringed or we undermine the basic tenet of our democratic tradition. For God's sake...turn the ringer off, but spare me your crypto-fascist/commie/royalist impulse to regulate our most cherished freedom--the right to speak freely even if it is mechanized, robotized and inane.

Anonymous said...

free speech, if I type more s l o w l y, perhaps you will grasp that all have a right to speak, though many of us don't want your ilk forcing us to listen. Get it? Don't call my house. You seem to have free speech and the right to not listen confused. You are likely a perfect target to be easily persuaded by robocalls - and still wondering how Branco had his ass handed to him. Will you be showing up at my door with jackboots to confirm my telephone is on? Good grief.

Free Speech said...

Anon 521-- I am the one who said anyone influenced by robo calls is a weak minded sap.

Why do you not lobby the legislature and have the DNC list law ammended to curtail a democratic practice?

Our country needs less freedom and more regulation of privacy and democracy...so us slow thinkers can be controlled!

You are indeed the jackboot in stealth form.

Anonymous said...

... another constitutional scholar who thinks everybody is not only entitled to his/her opinion, but required to hear it ... usually from the same crowd that constantly demands their right to privacy ...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Free Speech,

Up until now, you've been pretty good, but don't go dark on me.

Actually, there are competing rights here - free speech and privacy. I'd agree speech is paramount, but can't be forced on people who don't want to listen. Those robocalls are offensive to many people who desire more privacy when they are in the sanctuary of their own home. I think they have the right to say they don't want those calls just as I have the right to refuse a leaflet at the polls.

I respect your defense of the first amendment, but think you take it too far.

Free Speech said...

Blogmeister, I only go dark when attacked and anon 521's sarcasm and insults deserve rebuke.

free speech in a democracy can go too far??? That is the first step of those who would begin the unraveling. "taxation without representation" was too far for the Crown. "free men free states" was too far for the slave owners.

Where do you start and as result end up... Hang up. Ignore the calls. It is a consulting phase which will soon pass as it will be seen for what it is: an ineffective form of persuasive speech.

Now am I allowed back in the light?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Now am I allowed back in the light? Rarely do I meet someone with your expansive view of the First Amendment. I'll consider what you said.

Free Speech said...

Buckley vs. Valeo and the soon to be demolished McConnell vs US. Read them.

Free speech needs expansive protection--it is the last wall preventing tyranny and the first assualt tyrants make. Unless you're a 2nd ammendment fan and perhaps those folks would argue guns protect them from tyranny.

I think not. The government of whichever country will always have bigger guns.

Without free speech, everything else is moot.

Besides, robo calls are so 3 election cycles ago. It's just they surfaced now in the local races.

Next up: push polls!

Anonymous said...

"Anon 6:22, Your personal distaste for some forms of excercising free speech is exactly the direction we are moving in this country. You should be pleased with the state of affairs.

Free speech--of which paid speech an excercise of it--should not be infringed or we undermine the basic tenet of our democratic tradition. For God's sake...turn the ringer off, but spare me your crypto-fascist/commie/royalist impulse to regulate our most cherished freedom--the right to speak freely even if it is mechanized, robotized and inane."

Let the record show that free speech began the attacking. It's typical of the ilk who address the insecurity of their opinion by stomping and screaming and demanding to be listened to. Yes, freedom of speech also includes the right to lie when embarrassed.