Texts add to bombardment

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The flood of political text messages in this year’s election was out of control.
Normally, voters see TV and online advertisements as well as receive some flyers in the mail and phone calls from candidates or parties asking you to vote. Emails long ago were added to the mix.
All of those things happened this year, but campaigns added text messages to their arsenal of tools this year unlike any before. That buzzing in your pocket or notification on your smartwatch isn’t a friend or family member checking in. Just a political campaign or partisan group.
Some messages included images with text on them. Others attacked a specific candidate, occasionally also offering up a contrast with the party the sender is working for. Groups not directly affiliated with a candidate were also among text message senders and pushing information hoping to sway your opinion.
Candidates obtained your phone number from a third party and hoped that their efforts would prompt you to vote for their candidate. Campaigns do not have an incentive to dial back the political text messages, particularly when their opponent may be doing the same thing or when it may reach voters who otherwise tune out political advertising.
The Federal Communications Commission exempts campaign calls and texts from the Do Not Call List requirements. But there are some rules, including that calls or texts cannot be autodialed to cellphones (a computer sending out the same text message to hundreds or thousands of cellphones, for example) without the called party’s express consent. Text messages can be sent without consent if they are sent manually.
That political campaign texts can be sent doesn’t mean they shouldn’t face additional rules. And if there’s any place where Republicans and Democrats, already bitterly divided, might be able to reach a bipartisan compromise, we’d hope that it could involve raising additional barriers to entry for campaigns of all partisan persuasions.

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