LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With the California primary less than two weeks away, election season is in full swing and campaigners are targeting voters — even by text.
“Yeah, so text messaging has been huge,” Jason Hiner, CNET editorial director, said. “The Bernie Sanders campaign did help to really kick this off in 2016.”
Hiner said the 2016 Sanders campaign was very successful reaching young voters via text message during the 2016 presidential primaries, and he said the trend is catching on with other campaigns.
“Hi John, it’s Ashton with Tom Steyer’s campaign for president,” a recent text message to John Discala read.
“Join us at our debate watch party on Thursday starting at 5 p.m. in Culver City,” one to Natalie Discala said.
The Discalas live in the South Bay and said they prefer text messages instead of phone calls from political campaigns.
“Phone calls are so disruptive when my kids are sleeping,” Natalie said. “We actually had to get rid of our home phone.”
But other people find both texts and phone calls from political campaigns intrusive.
“I think people are annoyed by almost any form of communication that they didn’t ask for,” Natalie said.
So, how do campaigns get people’s phone numbers in the first place? There are three ways most campaigns collect phone number data: they can get them from voter rolls, when people donate to campaigns using their mobile phone number or by purchasing the data from third parties.
“These campaigns what they do is they go buy lists of these voters,” Hiner said. “When they go to sign up for loyalty cards and other forms of communication, they give their cell phone numbers.”
And while there are rules and regulations regarding robocalls and political messaging in general, Hiner said text messaging was “a gray area.”
Because humans are sending out individual texts, the campaigns can send out thousands every hour without violating federal bulk texting rules.
“Fortunately, the campaign texts that I’ve seen, they do offer an easy way to opt out,” Natalie said.
When John responded to one text with the word, “STOP,” he said they responded that he would be removed from the system.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,'” he said.
But Hiner said, as always, if a text message looks suspicious, don’t open it.
“You should never click a link you get from an unsolicited text message or email for that matter,” he said.
And if asking a campaign to stop texting doesn’t work, there are always software options on most phones that will block texts from certain numbers.