FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Political text messages

Voters are being inundated with political text messages.

“Maybe two a day or two every couple of days,” said Aixa Acevedo, voter.

“It’s kind of annoying,” said Waldstin Joseph, a voter.

“In the last couple of election cycles it has exploded in popularity,” said Mark R. Mills, political analyst.

But how do the senders get your number? Professor Jennifer Stromer-Galley has studied campaign text messaging since the 2016 election. She says, in some cases, people opt to get the texts but not most people.

“When you register to vote, most states require you to give your telephone number and address as part of the registration process,” said Stromer-Galley, professor at Syracuse University.

Once you’re registered, the political parties have access to your number and the texts can start dinging your phone. Political analyst Mark Mills says the tactic is being used more than ever because of the pandemic.

“Because of COVID and the lack of people getting together, campaigns aren’t doing as much outdoors. Campaigns are finding this to be a preferable way to reach voters,” Mills said.

And Tuesday, most people always have their phone on hand.

“It’s just really keeping up with the times, just to reach more people, especially with the younger generation,” Joseph said.

But do texts really help a campaign?

“Texting is very effective because it’s very cheap. Campaigns realize they can send a text for 5,6,7 cents apiece and if only 1% or 2% of the text list responds back, say with a donation or showing up at an event, then it’s worth it,” Mills said.

But most voters we spoke to say they usually just delete them.

“As soon as it comes to my messages, I just delete it,” Joseph said.

“I tend to just delete the stuff that I don’t want to see,” said Kandi Choisne, voter.

“If you’re already going to vote and then you start getting those text messages, it does get annoying,” Joseph said.

Mills says robo-texts are illegal, which is why campaigns send personalized messages.

“Somebody’s name is on the text and your name is on the text, so you would get a text from me, ‘Hi robert, this is Mark from ABC campaign. We hope you show up tomorrow at this event’ or send money or do something. That gets around the law,” Mills said.

But don’t think someone is actually texting you personally.

“They’re automated software programs that will include the name of the texter and the name of the person on the other end and it appears like it’s a personal text,” Mills said.

If you’re tired of getting these text messages, you can try to stop them.

“If you send a response back that says 'stop.' Stop, in theory, that is a way to opt out,” Stromer-Galley said.

But Mills warns people that won’t stop texts from all senders.

“Simply because you respond 'stop' to one, [it] has no effect on everybody else,” Mills said.

So, expect the texts to continue at least until Nov. 3.