“Robo Calls”

The blogosphere is a-titter with posts about automated phone calls. It appears that someone – allegedly the NRCC – was harassing voters with automated calls that re-dialed if the listener didn’t hang on the phone long enough. There are other allegations that someone – again allegedly the Republicans – were using fake “robo calls” in such a way as to make the receivers think the Democrats were making them.

Regardless, Paul Kiel at TPMmucraker has noted that some states are starting to take action on these calls.

Today, the Missouri Attorney General announced that he’s urging the state legislature to pass a law that would protect voters on the state’s “No Call” list from automated political calls. In that, the state is emulating New Hampshire, where voters on the federal “Do Not Call” registry are protected for robo calls.

This year’s election no doubt left many citizens envious of states like Indiana (where automated calls are completely banned) and New Hampshire, where voters were spared a glut of calls. So it’ll be interesting to see how many take action.

Earlier this year, State Senator Jim King (R-Jacksonville) was embroiled in a bitter primary fight against conservative activist Randall Terry. In that election, Terry’s campaign made automated calls attacking King. The problem here isn’t what was in the calls, but the harassment people feel when they receive them.

Thus, King and State Representative Stan Jordan (R-Jacksonville) will be filing legislation for the next legislative session to ban automated telephone calls, regardless of the state in which they originate. The Florida Times-Union has an article from September that talks more about this.

Northeast Florida legislators are preparing a state law to ban automated political calls as part of Florida’s Do Not Call program, possibly ending a longtime campaign tactic that has fallen into public disfavor. The legislation being prepared by Rep. Stan Jordan, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, would include “robo-calls” with the other solicitation calls banned under Florida’s Do Not Call list. Political calls had been exempt from the state’s Do Not Call program.

“It’s a nuisance that’s reached an epidemic level,” Jordan said. “I got the calls myself. You’re bombarded with them, and the worst part about it is they’re automated so you can’t even talk to them to get off the list. You don’t pay for a phone to be abused like that. Homeowners and constituents have a right to privacy.”

Jordan’s bill, which is still being drafted for filing in November, would target only automated political calls regardless of their out-of-state origin. Personal political calls would still be allowed; Jordan said those are less of a nuisance because a homeowner could presumably speak to the caller and request privacy.

This is good legislation. Let’s hope it passes. The State of Sunshine will monitor this through the session.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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