NewsDecision 2022


A deeper dive into the 'Texting Election' and how campaigns reach voters

Posted at 10:18 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 10:47:41-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the presidential candidates sparred on the debate stage Thursday night, volunteers for their respective campaigns continued their work trying to reach voters where they are: their cell phones.

"If there is a screen in front of you, the campaigns are going to use it to reach you," Richard Longoria, a professor at Cameron University, told NBC News. "Whether it's television, social media, right through your phone through text messages."

Joshua Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky who focuses on election law, told LEX 18 News that campaigns have become more sophisticated about mining data regarding voters. But obtaining information about voters is an old practice.

"Most states have voter files that have various public information in it, which includes your name, your party affiliation, and your phone number," Douglas explained.

There are other ways campaigns can purchase voter information. Remember when you signed that survey? Probably not. But that information can go a long way.

"These are campaign volunteers who the campaign provides the information," Douglas said. "And they're targeting who they think as high-value voters."

According to rules from the Federal Communications Commission, "robotexts -- text messages generated through autodialing -- are also considered a type of call and fall under all robocall rules."

Robotexts and robocalls are prohibited to cell phones without the called party's prior consent, but if the message's sender "does not use autodialing technology to send such texts and instead manually dials them."

If you are being flooded with these types of text messages from campaign volunteers and want them to stop, volunteers are expected to honor those requests.

If those texts persist and you have a complaint, you can file one here.