Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

June 25, 2014

Political ‘robocalls’ a pain for area residents

TAHLEQUAH — Oklahoma residents who belong to the state and national “Do Not Call” lists may be surprised to learn that political “robocalls” are exempt from these lists.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently issued a statement reminding residents about the rules governing telemarketing and pre-recorded messages, or “robocalls.”

“As election season gets into full gear, the frequency and volume of calls from campaigns to voters increases, which has led to more complaints received by the attorney general’s office about Oklahoma’s telemarketing laws,” said Pruitt in the statement. “While state and federal laws allow political campaigns to contact voters through such methods as ‘robocalls,’ there are rules campaigns must follow. Violations of the law are taken seriously and I encourage Oklahomans to report suspected violations to the attorney general’s office.”

Federal law requires all “robocalls” to clearly identify the person or entity responsible for initiating the call and requires a telephone number or address where such person or entity can be reached.

Neither the Cherokee County Democrats nor the Cherokee County Republican Party set up phone banks for calls. Both party chairs, though, said they believe the calls can be useful.

“Regarding robocalls, I’m unaware of ever having used them as a local party, though I have considered doing so myself – not for candidate support, but as a means to share information about upcoming meetings and party events with our community,” said Shannon Grimes, chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party. “Robocalls are usually the preview of candidate campaigns. There are often party members who volunteer to help with making phone calls for campaigns. While such opportunities are often announced by the county party, they are not organized by us.”

Dana Rogers, chairwoman of the Cherokee County Democrats, said the party does not endorse candidates in primary elections, but supports the Democratic candidates in general elections.

“We don’t have dedicated phone banks, as we don’t have the financial resources or the manpower,” said Rogers. “During the last election cycle, we had an office for Cherokee County Democrats, where our volunteers could come and help the candidates. Our Young Democrats worked on several phone banks throughout the campaign season. We even had Young Democrats come up to help us from the Oklahoma City area.”

Grimes believes robocalls can be both useful and bothersome.

“I figure the latter factor probably has a lot to do with how many one is receiving, as well as the times being received,” said Grimes. “Getting an occasional robocall is likely to be much better received than receiving a whole bunch in a short time.”

Rogers said that from a candidate’s point of view, robocalls can provide more “bang for the buck,” but they have no influence on her vote.

“I am someone who seeks to know about all of the candidates running, their positions on items important to me and their voting records,” said Rogers. “I firmly believe that the candidates serve at the will of the voters and I am not intimidated or scared to talk to them one-on-one to learn about them. I am a political nerd like that.”

For more information or to report a possible violations of telemarketing laws, contact the attorney general’s office at 405-521-3921, or online at www.ok.gov/oag.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

To get the results of an online polls about political robocalls, visit www.tahlequahTDP.com.

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