Neighbors can’t escape Election with campaign text messages coming in almost daily

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(WSYR-TV) — Have you been getting more texts lately? Political campaigns have your number and seem to have no problem with messaging your phone looking for support.

The political ads on TV can be overwhelming, but as viewers have told NewsChannel 9, turning off the TV doesn’t drown out the noise of the Election.

NewsChannel 9 has seen several screenshots from viewers who are getting text messages from political campaigns at all levels. Now people are wondering how these campaigns got ahold of their numbers.

Well, it turns out that just about everything in your voter registration — other than your Social Security number — is public record.

If your cell phone is on there, then that is one way campaigns can reach you. And there’s not much that stops them.

There’s very little regulations for text messages — specifically for political campaigns. Like phone calls, people really don’t understand that political phone calls are specifically exempt from the state and federal ‘Do Not Call’ registry.

John Conklin — New York State Board of Elections

And the number of text messages that people are receiving are going up.

According to the call and text blocking app Robokiller, texts are outnumbering calls.

Americans received nearly 2.7 billion political text messages in the month of September. That is up nearly one billion from August.

If the text is legitimate it should have a line that says something like: “To opt-out, text STOP.”

As for the phone calls, the best you can do is ignore them.

Tom Haag, the campaign manager for Representative John Katko, sent the following statement to NewsChannel 9:

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our campaign has worked to prioritize the health and safety of Central New Yorkers. Instead of door-knocking and contacting voters in-person, we’ve largely transformed our campaign into a virtual operation. We send texts, make calls, and reach people on digital platforms. These mediums have allowed us to safely and effectively communicate Congressman Katko’s bipartisan record and work to deliver for Central New York during this pandemic.”

Dana Balter’s campaign sent the following statement to NewsChannel 9:

“Our campaign reaches out to people through a variety of methods, including phone calls, texts, Zoom events and Facebook Live events. Because we can’t do face-to-face campaigning right now, these methods are really critical to our outreach program. Currently, a big part of our focus is making sure that everyone has the information they need to exercise their right to vote — whether that’s voting absentee, early, or on Election Day.

One upside to virtual campaigning is that, through these methods, we have been able to reach a lot of people who otherwise would not be able to participate in the campaign. We’re also seeing organizations across the country use these same methods to encourage people to get involved in this race.”

The Federal Communications Commission has a full web page on “Rules for Political Campaign Calls and Texts” for people to learn more.

According to the FCC, all prerecorded voice message calls — campaign-related and others — must include the following information:

  • The identity of the business, individual or other entity that is making the call must introduce themselves in the beginning of the message
  • If it is a business or corporate entity, their official business name must be stated at the beginning of the message
  • The number of the calling party must be given either during or after the message

According to the FCC, political text messages can be sent without the recipient’s prior consent if the sender doesn’t use auto-dialing technology to send the texts. They have to manually dial in the texts.

If you think you have received a political text or phone call that has gone against those FCC rules, then you can file an informal complaint by clicking here.

You can also forward texts that you didn’t ask for to 7726 (or SPAM).


More from NewsChannel 9:

For more local news, follow Josh Martin on Twitter @JoshMartinNC9.

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