Every election cycle should be a learning experience. In 1988, for instance,Â the lesson wasÂ “Read My Lips: No Tank Pictures.” In 1998, it was “Um, maybe impeachment isn’t such a cool idea after all.” This year, my personal take-away is “Kill Robo-Calls.”
I’ve always thoughtÂ of these automated, pre-recorded election pitches, whichÂ feature the scratchy voice of someÂ political figure or other luminary, as a wen on the body politic: an obnoxious intrusion into people’s homes. I’ve never seen a shred of evidence that they actually, strictly speaking, you know, worked, and my gut tells me that they turn off more people than they persuade.
What is an annoyance for most of us is a threat to the health and well-being of some.Â Take the case of a Connecticut woman,Â preparing for breast cancer surgery, who received dozens of unsolicited robo-callsduring that state’s primary season. She was quoted as saying, “I would conservatively say I got 60 calls . . . I’m waiting for biopsy results and I’m getting these phone calls. I was awakened out of a sound sleep the day before my surgery.”
During the 2006 election cycle, voters have reported receiving robo-calls purporting to give information about a candidate, with the message only disclosing at the end that it actually is a negative call paid for by the opposition party. Others have reported that they received the same pre-recorded call many times in a row.Â I say, get rid of ’em. I’ve asked Legislative Services to draft legislation, modeled on an Indiana bill, placing broad restrictions onÂ robo-calls, including campaign messages, within the Commonwealth. It’s worth a try, doncha think?