THE BLOG

Cell Phone-only Voters Frustrate Campaigns

03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mark Pike and Elana Berkowitz, OffTheBus correspondents, follow the youth beat this week while traveling through Iowa.

Iowa is off the hook, but maybe not so much in the colloquial sense.

With the caucus just a week away, many campaigns are ramping up telemarketing outreach in a last ditch effort to contact potential supporters.

Empirical evidence (ie. staying one night in a Des Moines residence) reveals that households receive upwards of a dozen calls a night. Many of the calls are micro-targeted to residents, informing them of events happening in their neck of the woods and promising intimate appearances with candidates.

"Press 1 if you're interested in attending tomorrow's event." * Presses 1 * "John McCain will be appearing at the Elk's Lodge tomorrow morning at 9:30am. Doors open..."

But what if you're not interested in attending a candidate's events, and have expressed that stance to staffers on multiple occasions? Is there a way to ensure that your phone phone number gets deleted from a candidate's call rolls?

Right now, the most you can do is ask politely.

Currently, there is no legislation blocking charities and political groups from telemarketing in this country. Although phone owners can register their numbers on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call List and avoid the nuisance of intrusive sales calls, it is impossible to block incoming calls from candidate's caffeinated volunteers and Robotron 3030 (the patent-pending auto-caller that always knows when it's supper time).

Courts would likely decide that legislation limiting political group's ability to use the telephone as an unfair regulation and abridgment of the fundamental First Amendment freedom--the right to peaceably assemble. (ED. NOTE: link to Mainstream Marketing v. FTC).

I tried to get insight into the constitutionality of a political telemarketing ban, but was ironically unable to contact a law professor at the University of Iowa on the telephone. They were probably screening their calls.

But, if you're really annoyed with the constant ringing, one solution seems to be working for many Iowans--cell phones. It seems that political candidates have a harder time acquiring contact information for citizens cell phones as the data is not cheap to obtain. And, candidates run the risk of upsetting voters for wasting their valuable restricted minutes just to remind them to caucus for the umpteenth time.

In fact, many of Des Moines' younger population have skipped out on getting a land-line altogether in favor of their trusty omnipresent cell phones.

Eric Ernst, a Des Moines native was dining at the Waveland Cafe, enjoying time away from his home where the phone was ringing "at least 8 times a day." He added, "on the cell phone, they can't reach me."

According to CBS News, cell phone-only voters (6 percent in the 2004 network exit polls) were younger. Forty-eight percent of them were under the age of 30.

If more citizens ditch the land-lines in favor of cell-phones, could we see political telemarketing go the way of the rotary dialer? Perhaps. Then we can address political SPAM email.