Political text messages peak as Election Day nears, virus prevents most in-person campaigning

The election is less than two weeks away and the pandemic has certainly affected politics this year. Instead of relying on door knocks and big events, campaigns are using technology to reach voters.

But some voters say they have grown tired of being bombarded with political text messages.

This way of targeting voters is not a new strategy, but during this presidential election, it is on a whole new level. 

According to data released by the spam-blocking app RoboKiller, the amount of texts is skyrocketing. In the month of September, Americans received nearly 2.7 billion political messages, up from about 500 million in June.

“What we’re seeing is campaigns switching gears to contactless forms of voter engagement because of the coronavirus,” explained University of South Florida Associate professor of political communication, Dr. Joshua Scacco. “Text messages are much more likely to be engaged with, in some type of way, than phone calls, than emails, than even direct mail that sometimes goes directly in the garbage can.”

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It might seem excessive, but experts say the messages are effective.

The text message campaigns are legal. Political calls and texts are exempt from the Do Not Call List. FCC rules say campaigns can text you without permission, but only if the sender does not use auto-dialing technology.

“[There] are computer programs that a staffer on a campaign can essentially fill out the necessary fields including a person’s name, including the message they want targeted at a particular set of voters,” Scacco said.

Your number is also easier to obtain than you may realize. The digits can be pulled from publicly available voter registration files.

If the constant text messages are bugging you, you can opt-out. The easiest way is to reply with the word "stop."  However, you may have to do that a couple dozen times since you are likely on multiple lists.

Voting in Florida 2020: Tampa Bay area election guide

To make sure your vote counts, there are several things to know about early voting in Florida and voting by mail in 2020. Here is county-by-county information about voting deadlines and methods in the Tampa Bay area.