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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As robocalls become more popular and the number of landlines declines, political campaigns are now texting people to encourage them to vote.
A number of people contacted us on election day asking how campaigns get your cell phone numbers. We discovered that they had even more information than that on registered voters.
The day before Election Day, Jennifer Brooks received a text from an unknown number.
It read, “Hey Jennifer, we see you voting in the presidential election, but can you join your neighbors on (street name of Brooks) and vote in our city’s election tomorrow. It’s going to be a close election!
She did not answer. The next day, Brooks received another message from the same number. It read: “Most of your neighbors in (Brooks street name) have already voted. When do you plan to vote? Text me when you’ve voted, otherwise I’ll call you around 5pm to check in.
Brooks said this text went too far.
“I asked these people to leave me alone. I said, ‘Wow, that’s creepy, please lose my number.’ I also told them I was reporting this to the election committee,” Brooks said.
According to Indiana law, political parties IC 3-7-26.4-6 and IC 3-7-26.4-12 can subscribe to Indiana’s voter registration system for an annual fee of $5,000. $. Voter registration forms say your number is optional, but they don’t disclose that you might be contacted by campaigns if you share it.
“If I had known I was going to get these texts, I would have completely unsubscribed and not included my phone number,” Brooks said.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said you can step down after the fact. He also stressed that this information is kept securely within the party and not shared with anyone.
You can send the word “STOP” back by SMS to unsubscribe.
“Or you just text back, ‘Please stop communicating with me,’ and there’s a button on the system that we use to just say pull out,” Zody said.
However, it didn’t work out for Brooks.
“They responded three hours later saying, ‘Less than 3 hours to vote, calling you at 5 p.m.,’ I didn’t want them to call me,” Brooks said.
She wanted to know how they could know if she had already voted. Zody said parties can get this through county election commissions.
“It’s not automatic and it’s not in every county, but this information is publicly available to county political parties, so at times on Election Day there are arrangements with the county to get updates on who voted,” Zody said. .
He said it’s helpful so they don’t have to contact people who have already voted.
“You’re doing everything you can that’s appropriate, respectful, legal to go out and connect with people and it’s going to be one of those things that’s worth the investment because it’s a way to connect with people to go out and vote,” Zody said.
Although Zody said many voters appreciated the reminders and information provided in the texts, Brooks found them intrusive.
“It was scary !” said Brooks.
We asked people on Twitter if they wanted political campaigns to text them, 95% of people said no.
If you want to prevent campaigns from texting you, the best thing to do is to refuse to share your number on the signup form. If you already have it, you can go back and edit it by clicking here. However, even if you change it, there is no guarantee that political parties will not record your information.
You can contact your lawmakers to see if they can text voters against the law. You can also ask state lawmakers to require campaigns to stop texting you if you ask them to stop.
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