As elections close, campaigns tend to spend their dwindling resources on the activities that reach the most voters for the least amount of money. More often than not, that means an explosion of robocalls -- automated phone messages that can blanket a district for a drop-in-the-bucket price.
News reports about robocalls have been surprisingly sparse this cycle, at least compared to 2008. But that doesn't mean they aren't taking place. Readers have emailed in to say they've been blanketed by campaigns, committees, and various political organizations (please, email audio!). And on Monday, the telecommunications giant Comcast was forced to put out a statement apologizing to users in New England states for disrupted service. Robocalls, it appears, were clogging up the telephone lines.
"Comcast - and, we believe, other local phone carriers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts - are experiencing severe call volumes on the evening before the election due to auto dialing activity that is generating a massive number of inbound political phone calls to our network," the statement read. "As soon as we were made aware of the congestion this was causing, we began to re-route traffic around it. At the same time, we are working hard to identify the carrier that owns the originating telephone numbers generating these unusual traffic volumes in an attempt to address the situation."
The irony of it all is that robocalls seem to repel as many voters are they persuade, with recipients genuinely frustrated at the prospect of their lives being interrupted every hour by some automated voice. And while politicians often decry the use of the tactic (certainly when being targeted) more frequently they're using the public backlash to robocalls for political advantage. As reported on Monday by local Topeka, Kansas station WIBW:
The Kansas Democratic Party said a Republican organization it hasn't identified made automated calls telling voters to bring a voter registration card and proof of home ownership with them when they vote Tuesday.
Those items are not required.
"There is no place for voter intimidation in our electoral process," said Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates. "Every Kansas voter should feel comfortable with their right to cast a ballot and understand tactics like these are lies meant to scare them away from exercising that right."