CBS 58 Investigates: political text messages

CBS 58 Investigates: political text messages

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Many voters have been inundated with political texts this election cycle. The Do Not Call list allows these types of texts as long as a person does not use an autodialer to send the messages.

"When they call me Brenda, I reply back saying, I'm not Brenda and I ask them to go away," said Susan Barnes.

Barnes told CBS 58 Investigates she's getting six to eight of these texts a day. She said most call her Brenda and she's tried to the get the messages to stop.

"One of them said ok, sorry about that, and the other they told me, well I'm sorry but you're on a political texting list," said Barnes.

Viewers on Facebook also told CBS 58 Investigates they're experiencing the same.

"I've been getting a political text almost every (day). It's really getting on my last nerve," said Kristy Hartwig.

Have gotten a ton also! It's ridiculous," said Ryker Holms.

CBS 58 Investigates found the texts are legal. The Federal Communications Commission allows political texts to be sent to your phone without your permission as long as the sender doesn't use any sort of autodialer.

"Somebody from the NAACP called me," said Wisconsin NAACP President Wendell Harris.

Harris said he's not surprised he got one. He makes calls and texts too.

"We have an army of volunteers around the country, who get a list of voters in their respective communities to call and encourage people to come out and vote," said Harris.

Harris said the volunteers take their lists of 20 people, reach out, and turn the lists back in for  more. He said voters can ask the messages to stop.

"If a person says I don't want this, we certainly don't force it," said Harris.

Syracuse University Professor Jennifer Stromer-Galley said in many cases stopping the texts is difficult.

"It's not clear how to opt out, typically when you get these text messages there's just the message," said Stromer-Galley.

She studies these texts and political messages. She said its not clear how successful they are at mobilizing voters, but what is clear, texts have exploded this election.

"I have never gotten so much media attention and its because people are inundated," said Stromer-Galley.

She said political campaigns and other groups buy voter lists and other databases to get email addresses and phone numbers. Wisconsin sells its 6.9 million voter records for $12,500.

Stromer-Galley said reforms to political emails occurred in the 90's. She said reform to political text messages may be needed now.

"I do expect that the public is pretty fed up," said Stromer-Galley.

Voters can take their phone number off their voters registration, which will keep it out of any future voter list sales. However, that also means an elections clerk may not be able to contact that voter if there is an issue with their ballot.

Voters can also text the word "stop" to any unwanted political texts.

Groups should mark that phone as no longer wanting to be contacted. However, with multiple lists and volunteers sending these messages out, that solution may not stop every text.

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